The documentary “The War of the Worlds” recalls the grim occurrences of Sunday October 30, 1938; the day on which CBS Broadcaster Orson Welles deceived the nation and caused an abrupt outcry of panic amongst society. In an attempt to shock listeners, Welles created a horror play hoax inspired by author H.G Wells’ novel in which a Martian invasion wages war on Europe; however, Welles’ tailored his script to be set in the United States. To enhance the realism, CBS employed ten actors and a large orchestra to play the various characters and generate sound effects. Upon the initial airing of the story, many listeners had yet to tune in and, as a result, they missed the introduction which informed that the program was only a dramatized play. News of the invasions spread so rapidly that Americans nationwide spiraled into immediate panic, packing their belongings and evacuating their homes. Bustling traffic consumed the cities, causing numerous fatal car accidents; meanwhile, other news reports aired of panic-related deaths and suicides, all due to the fiasco.
Rationally considering the facts, a story such as this would seem so implausible that almost every listener whom had tuned in would immediately recognize the absurdity and, without hesitation, determine the story of fictional basis. Although the public was greatly scrutinized for being so gullible, can we really blame them? The truth is, radio as a medium is one incredibly powerful tool that, when used correctly, can influence thoughts and behaviors on a world-wide scope. As this particular example occurred during the tragic plummet of the U.S. economy as well as World War II, Americans were already experiencing severely heightened anxiety and sensitivity to the negative media coverage airing so frequently. Therefore, when such a hyper-realistic and horrific news story was aired, it caused all thoughts of logic and rationale to be thrown out the window while the overwhelming sense of fear and survival consumed the minds of the people. Welles’ in fact managed to suspend the belief of his listeners. This is a true illustration of how the power of propaganda is not to be underestimated. Although Orson Welles’ did not intentionally mean harm, he did indeed provoke very extreme, chaotic, and impulsive reactions across an entire nation, simply by rehearsing a fictional horror story on air. With access to the masses, the radio holds a captivated audience and a superior influence to spread information and communicate to the public.
From Granville T. Woods’ railway telegraphy invention of 1887, to Reginald A. Fessenden’s radio transmitter of 1901, to Lee de Forest’s human voice transmission technology of 1907, the radio industry has surely made some commendable strides along the way. As the radio was originally used solely for purposes such as maritime communication through Morse code, it was not until much later in the U.S. that the radio industry gained the function of entertainment. According to The History of Communication Technology, this transition from utility to recreation did not take place until the end of World War II when Americans turned to the radio for amusement. Over the course of the next few decades, trends such as “The Top 40 Hits” were introduced as well as a variety of stations specializing in genres from rock to classical to pop and beyond, shaping the industry into what it has become today.
Over time, we witnessed the downfall of the newspaper industry after having been greatly affected by the premiere of the television. Although the radio industry was not quite as phased by the TV, it does have its own competitor whom has proven more than capable of captivating and stealing potential listeners. This competitors name is internet radio, and it comes in many forms. From Pandora, to iHeartRadio, Spotify, Youtube, iTunes Radio, and so on, the internet radio user-base has grown exponentially over the last decade, rapidly approaching and surpassing the number of traditional radio listeners. According to Radio Facts and Figures, approximately 236 million people tune into FM Radio stations each week. This may strike you as a large amount however, Pandora Internet Radio, a 15 year old company, has managed to accumulate 250 million registered users in a fraction of the time. The Pew Research Center stated that “More than half of Americans ages 12 and older have listened to online radio in the past month” meanwhile, the number of internet radio listeners has more than doubled over the past five years.
So what is the appeal, you might ask? Why have such a large portion of listeners jumped ship from traditional FM radio to the modern version of internet radio? When surveyed, listeners indicated that their favorites parts of internet radio were the convenience and customization. Many listeners prefer personalizing their music by creating their own playlists; they also enjoy exploring the wide selection of genres, as well as the ease of use and availability on their devices. The number one reason that over 50% of listeners favored internet radio, however, was the ability to skip songs. As the head of a radio station, I would attempt to incorporate these key components to regain a larger share of listeners. For instance, decreasing commercial airtime could prevent listeners from changing the station as often. Another improvement could be venturing off the beaten path and focusing on underground, unique music rather than the same fifteen mainstream songs that are played continuously on all major stations. Although the ability to skip songs is not feasible for FM radio, perhaps the larger variety of music and minimal advertisements will help make the traditional radio more appealing.
We wake up in the morning and go about our daily routines. For many of us, that routine includes a lengthy amount of time spent scrolling on our devices through various social media platforms. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and so on, the information in our world today is largely communicated through these means. When news reporter Nancy Grace tweets an amber alert with a photograph of a missing child and shares it to her Instagram and Facebook accounts, her 2,442,105 “followers” and “friends” become informed and have the ability to help save a life.
Source: Twitter @NancyGraceHLN
The same media influence goes for Kim Kardashian as well. You see, when Kim K posts an Instagram photo of her scantily clad Paper Magazine cover shot and shares it to her Twitter and Facebook profiles, her combined 71,649,046 followers and friends will see the photo, and she essentially “breaks the internet”. The problem with these figures is the fact that for every one person Nancy Grace’s message will reach, approximately thirty people will receive Kim Kardashian’s message, or lack there of.
Media literacy in this day and age is more necessary than ever. As social media has taken over as a predominant form of communication and interaction, it is shaping society’s opinions on what is important and what is irrelevant. The celebrities in our country have been set on a pedestal, constantly in the spotlight and more frequently in our daily news. People like the Kardashians have been glorified for having designer clothing, perfect bodies, fancy cars, and more money than they know what to do with. A large consequence of our celeb-obsessed society is the undoubtedly overshadowing of important social and political issues, such as children being kidnapped, with topics that are more sexy and glamorous, like Kim Kardashian’s rear end. It is the consumers responsibility to analyze the information they have been presented with and make an educated decision about which types of media they will focus on and which they will remain uninfluenced by. Through the spread of media literacy, our society can possess more well-informed individuals whom think for themselves rather than mindlessly absorb what they are told.
Figures mentioned in this post were computed by personal research via the certified social media accounts of Kim Kardashian and Nancy Grace.
Hello All! My name is Ali and I’m a third year marketing major, beginning my first semester at the University of Maryland this Fall. Aside from pursuing my degree in business, I enjoy practicing yoga, anything arts and crafts, exploring the great outdoors, and attempting my latest recipe finds on Pinterest. I look forward to cultivating my writing abilities through this blog!