From the early 1900s to today, mass media has evolved in a tremendous way. Back when you can only get your news by waiting for the paperboy to throw today’s edition on your front door step or heading to the local market to grab an issue of your daily news for a penny to now when you can turn on the television or even open an app on your smartphone, the way media can be distributed has significantly changed. Over the past 100 years radio, television and Internet have come and taken over the industry one by one, one preceding the next.

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From the 1910s to 1940s, following the dreams of inventor Lee De Forest, radio started to become a public system that listeners would be able to tune into from their homes to listen to what was going on in World War II and soon after live radio shows such as Dick Tracy and The Breakfast Club with Arthur Godfrey. The Federal Communications Act of 1934 allowed the commercial use of public airwaves, only if their programming didn’t stir up public controversies. After the war ended in 1945, television began to make its way into the picture a few years later in 1948.

Big named companies such as ABC, CBS and NBC began to shift the gears into television because it was the next big thing that combined radio with moving pictures. By 1960 majority of households had a television and people were more interested in watching it than listening to the radio. This caused a significant decline in the amount of people that listened to the radio for their news and entertainment so the decision was then made to do what television couldn’t: devote their airtime to broadcasting music for specific local audiences.

Radio began to influence the American culture by going from something the people would be able to listen to for their daily source of news and entertainment to a single outlet to listen to their favorite music. A big impact on this was that radios had began to become portable to take with you on the go, such as boom boxes and Walkman players. Television went from being “live” like plays or other shows that were performed, to being syndicated such as most television we see today where you can watch the same show over and over again.

In the mid 1990s, the Internet began to make its mark on the communication world. Families were able to access the Internet for news, entertainment, weather, playing games and anything else they could think of to access. In 2009, there was an estimated 76 million homes that had Internet access, which equals to about 67% of all U.S. homes and 95% of homes that have computers. Newspapers, radio stations, and television stations have all since then made their online presence.

Today, you can read the New York Times online while streaming your favorite radio station morning talk show and then go to watch your favorite episode of The Walking Dead all without moving from in front of your computer screen. This is a strong example of media convergence. Convergence in media takes place when content that traditionally has been confined to one medium appears on several different media channels. At one point in time, it would’ve been silly to think that you could watch television or read a newspaper on your laptop or listen to music radio stations on your television, but in today’s times that silliness has made its way to reality.

Because of the way media is distributed, now more than ever it is important to have a sense of media literacy to know the difference between fact and fiction and what’s news and what isn’t. People depend strongly on the news to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong, and unfortunately there are people out there that will take advantage of this fact. An advertisement for a new dog food may come across as a news story about how a certain type of dog food isn’t good for your pet, but in reality its made to confuse and manipulate a consumer into purchasing that particular company’s product. Seeing is believing for a lot of people and what you see isn’t always the truth.

  • Turow, J. (2011). Media Today : An Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Routledge.