Learning ObjectivesIdentify ways in which American society is reflected on television.Identify means in which television affects the advance of American culture.
You are watching: Interrelationship between the entertainment media and culture
Since the inception as an integral component of American life in the 1950s, television has actually both reflected and nurtured social mores and values. From the escapist tv series of the 1960s, which consciously avoided controversial issues and also glossed over life’s harsher realities in favor of an idealized portrayal, come the copious fact TV reflects in current years, on i m sorry participants discuss even the most personal and taboo issues, television has held increase a winter to society. However the relationship between social attitudes and also television is reciprocal; tv have often demonstrated their strength to influence viewers, one of two people consciously through slanted political commentary, or subtly, by portraying controversial relationship (such as solitary parenthood, same-sex marriages, or interracial couplings) together socially acceptable. The symbiotic nature of television and society is exemplified in every broadcast, from family sitcoms to significant news reports.
Cultural influences on Television
In the 1950s, most television entertainment programs ignored existing events and political issues. Instead, the three major networks (ABC, NBC, and also CBS) arisen prime-time reflects that would appeal come a general family audience. Chief amongst these species of shows was the domestic comedy—a generic household comedy that was established by the character-based humor and usually collection within the home. Seminal examples had popular 1950s mirrors such together Leave It come Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, and The Adventures of Ozzie and also Harriet. Presenting a standardized variation of the White middle-class suburban family, domestic comedies shown the conservative values of one idealized American life. Studiously avoiding prevalent social worries such as racial discrimination and civil rights, the shows focused on largely White middle-class households with classic nuclear functions (mother in the home, dad in the office) and implied the most domestic problems could be addressed within a 30-minute time slot, constantly ending v a strong moral lesson.
Although this shows illustrated an idealized version of American family life, plenty of families in the 1950s were classic nuclear families. Complying with the extensive poverty, politics uncertainty, and physical separation the the battle years, countless Americans wanted to work out down, have actually children, and enjoy the peace and security that household life appeared to offer. Throughout the booming postwar era, a duration of optimism and also prosperity, the traditional nuclear family members flourished. However, the families and lifestyles gift in domestic comedies did not include the in its entirety American suffer by any type of stretch of the imagination. As chronicler Stephanie Coontz points out, “the June Cleaver or Donna stone homemaker duty was not accessible to the much more than 40 percent of black ladies with tiny children who worked external the home (Coontz, 1992).” Although nearly 60 percent the the U.S. Populace was labeled middle class by the mid-1950s, 25 percent of all family members and more than 50 percent the two-parent Black family members were poor. Migrant workers suffered horrific deprivations, and also racial tensions were rife. Nobody of this to be reflected in the world of residential comedies, where even the hispanic gardener in Father to know Best was called Frank smith (Coontz, 1992).
Most domestic comedies in the 1950s shown an idealized variation of family members life and also ignored social and political events.
Dennis S. Hurd – The Cleavers – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Not all programs in the 1950s to be afraid to tackle controversial society or political issues. In in march 1954, reporter Edward R. Murrow broadcast an unflattering portrait that U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy top top his display See the Now. McCarthy, a member that the Senate investigation Committee, had actually launched inquiries concerning potential Communist infiltration in U.S. Institutions. Murrow thought that McCarthy’s aggressive techniques were a potential threat to polite liberties. His portrait actors the senator from Wisconsin in one unflattering light by discussing contradictions in his speeches. This caused such an uproar the McCarthy was formally reprimanded through the U.S. Senate (Friedman, 2008).
Entertainment programs also tackled controversial issues. The long-running tv western Gunsmoke, which aired on CBS indigenous 1955 come 1975, grew in a Cold battle society, wherein U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) stood up to lawlessness in defense the civilization. The characters and also community in Gunsmoke challenged relevant social issues, consisting of the therapy of decimal groups, the meaning of family, the legitimacy the violence, and also the stamin of religious belief. During the 1960s, the show adapted to the desires of its the town hall audience, coming to be increasingly conscious of and sympathetic to country minorities, in tune with the nationwide mood during the civil rights era. This adaptability aided the present to come to be the longest-running western in TV history.
Violence and also Escapism in the 1960s
During the 1960s, tv news broadcasts brought the realities that real-world events into people’s living rooms in lively detail. The CBS evening News through Walter Cronkite, which debuted in 1962, quickly became the country’s most famous newscast, and by the end of the decade, reporter Walter Cronkite was recognized as the most trusted male in America. Following John F. Kennedy’s election to the presidency at the start of the decade, the 1960s take it an ominous turn. Shocked viewers tuned into Cronkite’s broadcast on November 22, 1963, come learn about the assassination of their president. During the next couple of days, viewers complied with every facet of the tragedy ~ above television, indigenous the tremor in Cronkite’s voice together he removed his glasses and also announced the news of Kennedy’s death, to the frantic scenes from Dallas police headquarters whereby the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, to be gunned down by nightclub owner Jack Ruby, to the thousands of mourners lining up alongside the president’s flag-draped coffin.
Television started to play a major role in U.S. Politics during the presidency the John. F. Kennedy.
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Around the exact same time as Kennedy’s assassination, horrific photos from Vietnam to be streaming into people’s living rooms throughout the nation’s very first televised war. With 5 camera crews ~ above duty in the Saigon bureau, news crews caught vivid details of the battle in progress. Back graphic images were rarely shown on network TV, number of instances the violence got to the screen, including a CBS report in 1965 that verified Marines light the thatched roofs the the town of cam Ne through Zippo lighters and an NBC news report in 1968 that aired a shoot of south Vietnamese general Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a captive on a Saigon street. More images, of youngsters being burned and scarred through napalm and prisoners gift tortured, fueled the antiwar sentiments of countless Americans. In addition to the devastation brought about by the president’s death and the Vietnam War, american were likewise feeling the pressure of the Cold War—the clash between the joined States and the Soviet Union in the years following people War II. This press was especially an excellent during durations of anxiety throughout the 1950s and 1960s, such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a confrontation that brought about many people to fear nuclear war.
As a result of the intense stress challenged by plenty of Americans throughout the 1960s, broadcasters and viewers turned to escapist program such as I Dream the Jeannie, a fantasy show about a 2,000-year-old genie that marries an astronaut, and Bewitched, a supernatural-themed show about a witch who tries to live as a suburban housewife. Both reflects typified the situation comedy, or sitcom, a comedy genre featuring a recurring actors of personalities who deal with zany situations based upon their everyday lives. Other well-known sitcoms in the 1960s had The Beverly Hillbillies, a show around a poor backwoods family members who relocate to Beverly Hills, California, ~ finding oil on their land, and also Gilligan’s Island, the can be fried escapist comedy around seven personalities shipwrecked on an uncharted island. No one of the 1960s sitcoms mentioned any of the political unease the was following in the outside world, offering audiences with a welcome diversion from genuine life. Other than an occasional documentary, TV programming in the 1960s included a spicy dichotomy between prime-time escapist comedy and hard news.
Escapist sitcoms choose I Dream the Jeannie noted Americans through a much-needed diversion native the stressful occasions of the 1960s.
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Diversity and Politics in the 1970s
During the 1970s, broadcasters started to diversify families on their reflects to reflect an altering social mindsets toward previously controversial worries such as single parenthood and divorce. Feminist teams including the nationwide Organization for females (NOW), the national Women’s politics Caucus, and the Coalition of job Union Women thrust for equality on problems such together pay and also encouraged women to go into the workforce. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned women’s right to abortion, providing them manage over your reproductive rights. Divorce rates skyrocketed throughout the 1970s, together states embraced no-fault divorce laws, and the change in family members dynamics was reflected on television. Between 1972 and 1978, CBS aired the socially controversial sitcom Maude. Featuring a middle-aged feminist living v her 4th husband and divorced daughter, the display exploded the leading values that the White middle-class domestic sitcom and also its timeless gender roles. Throughout its 7-year run, Maude tackled social and political concerns such as abortion, menopause, birth control, alcoholism, and depression. Throughout its an initial four seasons, the display was in the height 10 in Nielsen ratings, depicting the an altering tastes of the the town hall audience, who had come that age throughout the era of polite rights and Vietnam protests and developed a taste because that socially mindful television. Various other 1970s sitcoms took the very same approach, including Maude’s CBS predecessor, All in the Family, i beg your pardon covered problems ranging indigenous racism and homophobia come rape and miscarriage, and The mar Tyler Moore Show, i beg your pardon reflected an altering attitudes toward women’s rights by special television’s very first never-married independent job woman together the central character. Also wholesome household favorite The Brady Bunch, i beg your pardon ran from 1969 come 1974, featured a non-nuclear family, reflecting the rising rates of blended family members in American society.
The popularity of controversial shows choose Maude reflected the an altering cultural and also social values of the 1970s.
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In addition to changing family dynamics ~ above sitcoms and also other prime-time shows, selection and comedy sketch shows developed a politics awareness in the 1970s that reflected audiences’ cultivation appetite because that social and also political commentary. Sketch comedy present Saturday Night Live (SNL) premiered top top NBC in 1975 and has continued to be on air ever since. Special a different celebrity guest hold every week and fairly unknown comedy regulars, the show parodies modern popular society and politics, lambasting presidential candidates and pop stars alike. Previously NBC map out comedy show Laugh-In, i m sorry ran native 1968 come 1973, additionally featured politically charged material, though it lacked the satirical bite the later collection such together SNL. By the end of the decade, tv broadcasting reflected a far an ext politically conscious and also socially mindful viewing audience.
The affect of Cable tv in the 1980s
Until the mid-1980s, the height three networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) conquered television broadcasting in the unified States. However, together cable services acquired popularity following the deregulation the the industry in 1984, viewers discovered themselves through a multitude the options. Solutions such as Cable News Network (CNN), Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), and also Music tv (MTV) profoundly changed the tv landscape in the human being of news, sports, and also music. Brand-new markets opened up up for these innovative regimen types, and for older genres such together the sitcom. During the 1980s, a revival of family members sitcoms took place with two enormous hits: The Cosby Show and Family Ties. Both featured a brand-new take on modern-day family life, v the mothers working exterior of the home and also the fathers pitching in through housework and also parental duties. Despite their success on network television, sitcoms faced stiff competition native cable’s selection of choices. Between 1983 and 1994, weekly transfer audience share (a measure up of the number of televisions in use that room tuned come a specific show) because that network television dropped indigenous 69 to 52, while cable networks’ shares increased from 9 to 26 (Newcomb, 2004).
With a growing number of households subscribing come cable TV, concern began to grow about the level of violence come which children were ending up being exposed. In addition to routinely broadcast network programs, cable readily available viewers the possibility to clock films and adult-themed shows throughout all hours, many of which had far an ext violent contents than typical network programming. One study discovered that by the moment an average child pipeline elementary school, that or she has witnessed 8,000 killing and more than 100,000 various other acts the violence on television (Blakey, 2002). Return no conclusive links have been drawn in between witnessing violence top top television and also carrying the end violence in actual life, the loosening boundaries regarding sexual and violent content on television is a persistent reason for worry for numerous parents. For more information top top the social results of violence in the media, please refer to Chapter 2 “Media Effects”.
Specialization in the 1990s and also 2000s
Although TV viewership is growing, the vast number of cable channels and also other, more recent content distribution platforms method that audiences space thinly stretched. In current years, broadcasters have actually been narrowing the emphasis of your programming to fulfill the needs and interests of an increasingly broke up audience. Whole cable channels specialized to cooking, music, news, afri American interests (see sidebar below), weather, and also courtroom drama enable viewers to choose exactly what form of show they want to watch, and many news channels are further devoted according come viewers’ political opinions. This trend toward specialization mirrors a an ext general shift within society, as carriers cater progressively to smaller, an ext targeted consumer bases. Organization magazine editor kris Anderson explains, “We’re leave the watercooler era, when most of united state listened, watched and also read native the same fairly small swimming pool of greatly hit content. And also we’re start the microculture era, when we are all into various things (Gunther, 2006).” simply as cable broadcasters space catering to niche markets, Internet-based providers such as Amazon.com and Netflix are taking benefit of this concept by selling big numbers that books, DVDs, and music albums with narrow appeal. Section 9.3 “Issues and Trends in the tv Industry” and Section 9.4 “Influence of new Technologies” of this chapter will certainly cover the recent trends and issues of this era in television.
Black Entertainment tv (BET)
Launched in 1980, black Entertainment television (BET) to be the first television network in the unified States dedicated to the understanding of afri American viewers. The basic-cable franchise was developed in Washington, DC, through media business man Robert Johnson, who at first invested $15,000 in the venture. Within a decade, he had actually turned the company into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, and in 1991 it became the an initial Black-controlled agency on the brand-new York share Exchange. The agency was offered to Viacom in 2003 for $3 billion.
Pre-dating MTV by a year, gambling initially concentrated on Black-oriented music videos however soon diversified into original urban-oriented programs and also public to work shows. Although bet compensated rather for the underrepresentation the Blacks on tv (African Americans made up 8 percent that the prime-time personalities on tv in 1980 but made increase 12 percent that the population), viewers complained about the portrayal of stereotypical images and also inappropriate violent or sexual habits in countless of the rap videos shown by the network. In a 2004 interview v BET vice president of interactions Michael Lewellen, former BET talk present host Bev blacksmith said, “We had videos on gambling in those days the were graphic however didn’t proliferate together they it seems ~ to be doing now. That’s every you do seem come see room scantily pull on women that a most African American women are upset around in those videos (Fox News, 2004).” in spite of the criticisms, BET stayed the No. 1 cable network amongst Blacks 18 to 34 in 2010 and also retained an typical audience the 524,000 total viewers throughout the very first quarter of the year (Forbes, 2010).
Television’s influence on Culture
Despite entering a microculture era v a selection of niche markets, television stays the most vital unifying social presence in the joined States. During times of national crises, television news broadcasts have actually galvanized the country by giving real-time coverage of major events. Once terrorists crashed planes right into the people Trade facility towers in 2001, 24-hour TV news crews provided stunned viewers roughly the human being with continuous updates about the attack and its aftermath. Meanwhile, network blockbusters such as Lost and 24 have united viewers in shared anticipation, launching countless blogs, pan sites, and speculative rectal discussions around characters’ fates.
Televised coverage the the news has had several cultural effects because the 1950s. Giving viewers with footage that the many intense human experiences, televised news has actually been able come reach human being in a way that radio and newspapers cannot. The images themselves have played vital role in influencing viewer opinion. Throughout the coverage of the civil rights movement, because that example, footage of a 1963 assault on civil legal rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama, confirmed police blasting african American demonstrators—many of them children—with fire hoses. Coupled with pictures of angry White segregationist mobs squaring off versus Black students, the news footage did much to persuade public opinion in donate of liberal regulation such as the 1964 Voting legal rights Act. Conversely, once volatile pictures of the gyeongju riots in Detroit and also other cities in the so late 1960s struggle the airwaves, horrified viewers observed the require for a return to law and order. The footage helped create an anti-civil-rights backlash the encouraged numerous viewers to vote for conservative Republican Richard Nixon during the 1968 presidential election.
During the past couple of decades, mass-media news coverage has actually gone beyond swaying public opinion with mere imagery. Trusted centrist voices such as that the Walter Cronkite, that was known for his impartial report of several of the greatest news stories in the 1960s, have actually been changed by extremely politicized news coverage top top cable channels such as conservative Fox News and liberal MSNBC. As broadcasters small their focus to cater come more devoted audiences, viewers choose to clock the networks that suit their political bias. Middle-of-the-road network CNN, which intends for nonpartisanship, generally loses out in the ratings wars against Fox and also MSNBC, both of which have actually fierce teams of supporters. As one reporter placed it, “A tiny partisan base is sufficient for huge ratings; the mildly interested middle could rather clock Grey’s Anatomy (Poniewozik, 2010).” critics argue the partisan news networks cause viewers to have actually less expertise of opposing political opinions, making them an ext polarized.
Table 9.1 Partisan file of TV News audience in 2008
The problem of whether television producers have actually a obligation to promote specific social values proceeds to generate heated discussion. As soon as the unmarried location character in the CBS series Murphy Brown—a comedy show about a divorced anchorwoman—got pregnant and also chose to have the baby without any involvement indigenous the father, then–Vice president Dan Quayle referenced the present as an instance of devolving family values. Linking the 1992 Los Angeles riots come a breakdown of household structure and also social order, Quayle lambasted producers’ negative judgment, saying, “It doesn’t help matters as soon as prime-time TV has actually Murphy Brown, a character that supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, very paid expert woman, mocking the prestige of fathers by bearing a child alone, and calling the just an additional ‘lifestyle selection (Time, 1992).’” Quayle’s eight sparked lively debate between supporters and opponents of his viewpoint, with some praising his outspoken society commentary and others dismissing him together out the touch through America and also its growing number of single mothers.
Similar controversy occurred with the portrayal that openly gay personalities on prime-time tv shows. When the lead character ~ above the abc sitcom Ellen came out in 1997 (2 weeks after Ellen DeGeneres, the actress who played the role, announced the she was gay), she ended up being the very first leading gay character top top both broadcast and also cable networks. The show proved to it is in a test case for the nation’s yongin of openly gay personalities on prime-time TV and became the topic of much debate. Adopted by liberal supporters and also lambasted by conservative objectors (evangelical Baptist minister Jerry Falwell infamously referred to as her “Ellen DeGenerate”), both the actress and also the present furthered the quest to do homosexuality acceptable to mainstream audiences. Back Ellen was canceled the complying with year (amid debates with producers about whether it have to contain a parental advisory warning), DeGeneres successfully returned to tv in 2003 with her own talk show. Subsequent shows with prominent gay personalities were quick to follow in Ellen’s footsteps. Follow to the gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD), 18 lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender personalities accounted for 3 percent the scripted series regulars in the 2009–2010 broadcast tv schedule, up from 1.3 percent in 2006 (Mitchell, 2009).
Creating Stars via reality Television
Emerging out of the 1948 TV series Candid Camera, in which people were secretly filmed responding to sophisticated practical jokes, reality television aimed to capture real, unscripted life on camera. The genre arisen in several various directions, indigenous home-video clip mirrors (America’s Funniest home Videos, America’s Funniest People) come true-crime reenactment reflects (America’s many Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries) to thematic shows based on professions of interest (Project Runway, Police women of Broward County, Top Chef). Near the turn of the millennium, the genre started to lean toward much more voyeuristic shows, such as MTV’s The actual World, one unscripted “documentary” that followed the stays of 7 strangers selected to live with each other in a huge house or apartment in a significant city. The present drew criticisms for glamorizing poor behavior and also encouraging too much drinking and also casual sex, return its ratings soared v each successive debate (a tendency that critics claim encouraged producers to actively stage rating-grabbing scenarios). During the so late 1990s and 2000s, a wave of copycat reality TV shows emerged, consisting of the voyeuristic collection Big Brother, i beg your pardon filmed a group of strangers living with each other in an diverted house full of cameras in an attempt to win big amounts that cash, and Survivor, a game display in which participants competed against each other by performing endurance difficulties on an uninhabited island. Survivor’s success as the most popular show on tv in the summer that 2000 ensured the continued growth of the reality television genre, and also producers turn their attention to fact dating mirrors such as The Bachelor, Temptation Island, and Dating in the Dark. Cheap come produce, with a watch never-ending it is provided of ready contestants and also eager declaring sponsors, fact TV shows continue to carry in big ratings. As of 2010, to sing talent vain American Idol is television’s biggest revenue generator, pulling in $8.1 million in heralding sales every 30 minute it is top top the air (Bond, 2010).
The tension of appearing on reality television shows has actually proved detrimental to part contestants’ health. Britain’s got Talent star Susan Boyle experienced a nervous breakdown in 2009.
Banalities – SuBo dreamed a Dream – CC by 2.0.
Reality TV has developed the social phenomenon of the instant celebrity. Well known for simply being ~ above the air, reality display contestants are expanding their 15 minute in the spotlight. Kate Gosselin, star the Jon & Kate plus 8, a cable TV show about a pair who have eight children, has actually since showed up in countless magazine articles, and also in 2010 she starred on celebrity fact dance present Dancing v the Stars. Survivor contestant Elisabeth Hasselbeck ended up being a co-host on TV talk display The View, and several American Idol contestants (including Kelly Clarkson and also Carrie Underwood) have become household names. The genre has attracted criticism for creating a generation that expects to accomplish instant riches without having to shot very tough and additionally for preying ~ above vulnerable people whom critics call “disposable.” once Britain’s gained Talent star Susan Boyle endured a windy meltdown in 2009 after ~ the stress and anxiety of transitioning native obscurity to stardom in very short time period, the media started to allude out the risks of fact television. In 2009, TheWrap.com investigated the current lives of former stars of truth shows such as The Contender, Paradise Hotel, Wife Swap, and Extreme Makeover, and found the at least 11 participants had committed suicide as an apparent result of your appearances on display (Adams, 2009; Feldlinger).
Key TakeawaysTelevision has actually been reflecting changing cultural values due to the fact that it first gained popular after people War II. Throughout the 1950s, most programs ignored existing events and also political concerns in donate of family-friendly residential comedies, i beg your pardon featured White suburban middle-class families. Excessive stress throughout the 1960s, resulted in by political occasions such together the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, led world to turn to escapist television readily available by fantasy sitcoms. These listed a sharp dichotomy through the hard-news reflects of the era. Society consciousness during the 1970s motivated television producer to reflect an altering social attitudes regarding solitary parenthood, women’s roles, and divorce, and sitcom families started to reflect the increasing number of non-nuclear family members in society. The increasing popularity the cable TV in the 1980s led to an explode of news and also entertainment channels, several of which increased concerns around the level of violence on television. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, TV networks became much more specialized, catering come niche industries in stimulate to meet the demands of one increasingly fragmented audience.Television reflects social values, and also it likewise influences culture. One example of this is the polarization the cable TV news, i m sorry is no longer centrist but caters come individual political tastes. Doubters argue the this influences cable news viewers’ opinions and makes them much less open come opposing political viewpoints. Entertain programs additionally play an influential role within society. By depicting controversial relationship such as solitary parents or happy couples together acceptable, TV shows have the strength to form viewers’ attitudes. In current years, tv have created the concept of the prompt celebrity through the genre of truth television. Contestants on truth TV shows currently permeate every aspect of culture and the media, from the music charts to well-known magazines and also newspapers.
Please respond come the following short-answer composing prompts. Each solution should it is in a minimum of one paragraph.Spend a few days reviewing news coverage top top Fox News and also MSNBC. How is coverage of comparable news story different? perform you think partisan news networks can influence public opinion? Why or why not?
Adams, Guy. “Lessons native America top top the risks of truth Television,” Independent (London), June 6, 2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/lessons-from-america-on-the-dangers-of-reality-television-1698165.html.
Blakey, Rea. “Study links TV Viewing amongst Kids to later Violence,” CNN Health, march 28, 2002, http://archives.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/parenting/03/28/kids.tv.violence/index.html.
Bond, Paul. “‘Idol’ detailed as TV’s best Revenue Generator,” Hollywood Reporter, may 5, 2010, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i8f1f42046a622bda2d602430b16d3ed9.
Coontz, Stephanie. “‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Ozzie and also Harriet’: American households in the 1950s,” in The method We never ever Were: American Families and also the Nostalgia Trip (New York: BasicBooks, 1992), 28.
Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, “Is black Entertainment television Taking a mental Turn?” Fox News, may 26, 2004, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,120993,00.html.
Frank Feldlinger, “TheWrap Investigates: 11 Players have actually Committed Suicide,” TheWrap, http://www.thewrap.com/television/article/thewrap-investigates-11-players-have-committed-suicide-3409.
Newcomb, Horace. Ed., Encyclopedia that Television (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004), 389.
Poniewozik, James. “CNN: deserve to a mainstream News Outlet Survive?” Time, might 3, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1983901,00.html.
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Time, “Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown,” June 1, 1992, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,975627,00.html.