All posts by ykoba15

Quiz Show Scandal

Quiz Show (1994)                                                                                               Director & Producer: Robert Redford                                                              Starring:                                                                                                                             John Turturro                                                                                                                  Rob Murrow                                                                                                                       Ralph Fiennes

By Rebecca Doser and Yoshifumi Kobayashi

quiz show the cover
Fig.1: The movie Quiz Show (1994) portrayed the problematic way of being in television industry.

Quiz Show (Fig.1) is based on  the scandal of the Twenty One quiz show that appeared in the late 1950s. The Twenty One was broadcasted by NBC and was the television show that awarded a sum of money to the winner regarding to the fight over a bunch of trivial quizzes between two contestants. The directors of the show started to fabricate the results by telling the winner when to win or lose to make it more entertaining in order to  raise the viewers and keep the show’s solo sponsor, Geritol, at the end. The exposure of this scandal changed the way of sponsoring a television show and brought to light the extent a television show will go in order to provide entertainment.

First, we will examine what made executives of  Twenty One decide to manipulate the results of the quiz show and why that sequence became one of the greatest scandals of all time in television industry. There was a very important fact of the system in sponsorship of television at that time behind the scandal. The fact was that “throughout the 1950s, the networks served primarily as time brokers, offering airtime and distribution (their affiliates) and accepting the payment for it” (Baran, 2015, p. 186). That is, in 1950s it was just natural that one company hired one program to air to enable advertising of the company’s product throughout the program. As Baran states, “the networks relied on outside agencies to provide programs”(p. 186), moreover, there was only one agency to rely on to produce the program at that time.

Fig.2: Geritol was the only sponsor of the Twenty One quiz show
Fig.2: Geritol was the only sponsor of the Twenty One quiz show

In the case of Twenty One quiz show, Geritol, a  medical company, was the one and only sponsor that the show can rely on (Fig.2). For the sponsoring company such as Geritol, the effectiveness of the show and how well the show could advertise its product mattered significantly. On the other hand, no matter how meaningful or interesting the show was, it could not be broadcasted without the agencies that financially supported. This dilemma caused the quiz show scandal that took place in the late 1950s. Since the representative of the sponsoring company was concerned and not satisfied with the advertising on the show by the current champion, Herb Stempel, the representative ordered to change the person who would promote the product, otherwise he would quit sponsoring. When the sponsor insisted on abandoning its sponsorship, those who ran the program Twenty One had to obey the order if they wanted to keep airing the show. This meant that they needed to fabricate the honesty of the show by changing the champion on purpose. Eventually, the directors of the show dismissed Stempel and brought Charles Van Doren who could potentially elevate the sales of Geritol’s products as Van Doren’s father and grandfather were well known public figures. Thus, the quiz show used Van Doren as a source to advertise Geritol and accrue attraction.

When the fraud finally came out in public, it affected not only the quiz show and NBC, which owned the show, but also the whole industry of television in regards to how much control a sponsor should/could have over the program. It was evident that “the content of television was altered” (Baran, 2015, p.187). To illustrate this, sponsorship by one single sponsor was taken over by spot commercial sales: “selling individual 60-seconds spots on a given program to a wide variety advertisers” (Baran, 2015, p. 187). This change  that impacted a whole television industry was a result of the quiz show scandal in 1950s that suggested instability of adopting the solo sponsorship.

As a result, it  became relatively harder to commit ad-pull policy towards a television program, which was what the representive of Geritol suggested, unless all advertising agencies unite in ceasing to sponsor. That is, television programs do not necessarily twist the truth of the show when they are sponsored by multiple  companies and get enough money to run the show, though it is not true for some reality shows on TV nowadays. Even though there seems to be no worries anymore as for ad-pull policy, television still tends to exaggerate the content of a show in order to entertain the public. This idea lead to social responsibility theory that explains “how media should operate” (Baran, 2015, p. 366). Baran (2015) defined the theory as “media must remain free of government  control, but in exchange media must serve the public” (p. 366). Therefore, television as a mainstream medium “Give(s) the public what they want” just like it was said in the movie. When the public wants entertainment, television gives entertainment. Staged reality shows are not really real, but that what we expect to be real and thus we enjoy the show even if we are aware of the untruthfulness of it.  However, the problem is that to what extent television producers are allowed to make a show entertaining. If the truth is too boring to call it entertainment for the public to watch, then why not add some extra spices to let it be fun enough if that is what the public wants? Social responsibility theory says we, as the public, are responsible for the content of a program when television gives us what we want. Therefore, television is not to blame since we are the ones who want it and watch it for fun.

quiz show, chasing Van Doren's personal scandal
Fig.3: All the tv clues left the court and followed after Van Doren to record and to interview him.

Meanwhile, however, the comment mentioned by Richard N. Goodwin in the opening of this movie had me think about today’s television for a while. He said, “(I) used to be a man (who) drives a car, but now the car drives the man.” This line was not on the script that I checked, so Morrow who played Goodwin must have ad-libbed that line, which I think was very well thought because it interpreted the role of television today. For me, the line was connected to the last scene when all the cameras followed Van Doren’s personal scandal of being fired from Columbia University, ignoring the public scandal of the Twenty One quiz show that was still going on the court inflight the relatively bigger scaled scandal. Since television crews followed and recorded Van Doren, that was what the public saw on television. What I am trying to say here is that television is limiting what we can see, and it all depends on what the television crews capture. Thus, television companies decide what the public watches as well as what the public wants since they may have guessed Van Doren’s scandal was more interesting to the public than the television scandal as he had more connection to the public. Goodwin also described in the last scene that “I thought we were going to get television. The truth is like the television is going to get us.” In other words, it is not us who controls television, but but it is television (companies) that have control over us. Ultimately, we are responsible for what the television broadcasts according to social responsibility theory, however, the decision was all in those who work in television industry’s hand  when they produce a show at the end.

Baran, Stanley J. “Chapter 8.” Public Relations. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2015. Print                                                                                                                  Baran, Stanley J. “Chapter 14.” Public Relations. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2015. Print




Good Night, and Good Luck: The Story of a Nationwide Backlash Against McCarthy

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)                                                              Director: George Clooney                                                             
Starring: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, and Jeff Daniels

By Rebecca Doser and Yoshifumi Kobayashi

good night, and good luck part 1
Fig. 1: Good Night, and Good Luck directed by George Clooney appeared theaters in 2005.

Good Night, and Good Luck (Fig.1) is a historical drama based on the true story of  Edward R. Murrow‘s criticism of  the  Red Scare and Senator Joseph McCarthy through the television show See It Now. Murrow’s show contributed to the ultimate downfall of McCarthy himself. The title of the film as”Good Night, and Good Luck” was the ritualistic comment that Murrow used to close his show.  This movie focuses on media responsibility and a voice of dissent from government policy led by Murrow. Murrow was a television journalist and previous radio personality but then became a television host for the program See It Now. He led the resistance of McCarthyism by defying corporate and sponsorship pressures and pushing people to not let the fear of the Red Scare take over their freedom of thought and expression.

This film is framed by the 1958 speech given by Murrow to the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), which appears both as the beginning of the film and the end. Through this speech, Murrow reprimands his audience not to delve deep into a reliance on the current television entertainment and its perceived ability to educate the majority because it is simply becoming “wires and lights in a box.” In his speech, Murrow is saying that the structure of the news networks is in danger because “those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late…” This picture is that few members in the press are willing to stand up against McCarthy for fear that they too, will be targeted. Murrow feels as though he is the only one who is relaying that it is his “desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television.” Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, America is so overwhelmed with concern about the threat of communism that no one is willing to overcome self-regulation and actually seek out that “this instrument” aka the television can indeed be used to “illuminate and even inspire.” Murrow  relays that corporations are abusing their freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment by using television to “distract, delude, amuse and insulted us” with a “built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information.” Take for example, the fact that Senator McCarthy made a public accusation that more than 200 “card-carrying” communists had infiltrated the United States government. This imposes self-regulation on the majority of the audience watching television as they are fearful of actual news, and an actual “importance of ideas and information.”

Television took the “safe path” and in turn, the industry itself “caved in” (Baran, 2015, p. 188). Television turned into an instrument good for nothing but “to entertain, amuse and insulate,” according to Murrow. No one exerts his or her freedom of speech freely during the Red Scare because “the networks employed security checkers to look into people’s backgrounds, refused to hire suspect talent and demanded loyalty oaths from performers”(Baran, 2015, p. 188). Media corporations are thus abusing their freedom of speech and Murrow’s ultimate goal is to portray that television is nothing but “wires and lights in a box” if no one is determined, like he is, to actually relay the importance of exposing the senator’s lies and hypocrisy (Baran, 2015, p. 188). In analyzing Murrow’s speech, one can connect the concept of technological determinism in that technology’s influence is ultimately determined by how much power it is given by the people and the cultures that use it.  Baran argues that if these technologies, such as television, are indeed neutral and their power resides in how we choose to use them, then we can utilize them responsibility in order to construct and maintain whatever type of culture we desire (Baran, 2015, p. 17). Similarly, Murrow argues that the complacent, indifferent and uninterested individuals watching television for simply entertainment are being manipulated by the power given to the producers, reporters and television industry to control what is and is not relayed to an audience.  For once, Murrow expresses that he would actually like to see the importance of ideas and information extended to the audience in place of Ed Sullivan on a Sunday night or other means of simply using television as a source of uninformative entertainment.

Fig.2: Edward R. Murrow produced multiple reports that ultimately led to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Clearly, See It Now is one of the most significant TV shows in history because of its achievement and development of journalism in the television industry. The See it Now special titled, “A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy” contributed to the nationwide backlash against McCarthy and stands as one of the largest turning points in television history (Fig. 2). As we saw in Guilty By Suspicion, members of the film industry were too afraid of getting caught as communists or in opposition of the Red Scare and McCarthyism.  The people who were in the film and television industries could not stand against McCarthyism, even if they wanted to, for the sake of business and keeping their jobs. In other words, directors and producers were too afraid of losing their sponsors, which ultimately bring money into their company/business in order to survive.

As a matter of fact, the Red Scare encouraged advertisers “to avoid buying time from broadcasters who employed these ‘Red sympathizers'” (Baran, 2015, p.188). Without sponsors, companies serving those industries would soon collapse if they could not collect enough money to keep on producing. This is exactly how the ad-pull policy works. The ad-pull policy is an example of self-regulation during the 1980’s when producers imposed their own regulation in order to maintain their sponsors and furthermore, maintain their job status and income. For instance, in this movie the one and only sponsor of See It Now, Alcoa, rejected to provide commercials for the show after CBS broadcasted the corruption of the Air Force towards a suspected communist man Milo Radulovich on See It Now. In this case, however, CBS did not suspend the show but rather decided to ignore the advertisers bullying them. Murrow made his show a clear example of the courage and recklessness necessary to expose McCarthy’s perverse political practices and abuses of civil rights. In fact, Murrow pursued the truth by referring to McCarthy directly in during the McCarthy era by using excerpt from McCarthy’s own speeches to not only criticize him, but also to point out areas in which he contradicted himself.

See It Now became a symbol of the power of “democracy and freedom.” As a result, “television had given the people eyes and ears -and power-” (Baran, 2015, p.188) for people technically saw how they could express their own opinions through television even during the darkest era when most people hesitated to do so. Of course, this brought disagreement over the role of journalism between Murrow and his boss William Paley, the chief executive who built CBS from a small network to one of the most renowned radio and television network operations in the U.S.. The conflict created a proverbial wall between the editorial and corporate interests of both men. After one colleague sent a report about Murrow’s suspicion of being a communist,  Paley asked Murrow, “Are you on safe ground?” Paley needed to make sure Murrow had never been associated with the communist party so that he, and his network, would not be accused of a communist association as he was “responsible for a hell of a lot of goddamn reporters.” Murrow insisted that, “you told me that corporate would not interfere with editorial-the news is to be left,” indicating that reporters should not simply surrender to the greater power (McCarthy)  and make accusations of subversion or treason without proper evidence . Paley answered saying, “but editorial will not jeopardize the hundreds of employees of the Columbia Broadcasting system.” On the other side of the coin, Paley was maintaining that corporate did have the power to jeopardize his majority of employees, therefore, he had to obey corporate at some point as the person in charge. Later, however, he also said that, “We don’t make the news. We report the news.” He did not intend to stage the news, but he attempted to limit, that is, to regulate, what was reported due to the self regulation imposed by the Red Scare. Murrow opposed Paley’s belief that CBS needed to adhere to the people imposing regulation on themselves by stating: “We would all be just the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants.” He knew that it was not McCarthy who created that “situation of fear,” but that it was the people themselves. Paley concluded that, “I would argue that everyone censors, including you (Murrow).”

The two men also discussed how they can deal with the rejection of Alcoa to pay for asking to air advertisement during the program. Paley stated, “’The $64-thousand Dollar Question brings in over $80 thousand in sponsors and it costs one-third of what you do…. people want to enjoy themselves. They don’t want a civics lesson… I don’t want to get a stomachache every time you take on a controversial subject.”

$64,000 question show
Fig.3: Before the quiz show scandal of the late 1950s, The $64,000 Question was a high-stakes, nail-biting, ratings-topping game show phenomenon.

The $64,000 Question was the quiz show that aired in the 1950s (Fig. 3). It led to the discovery that it “had been fixed by advertisers and producers to ensure the desired outcomes” in 1959, which is now known as the quiz show scandal (Baran, 2015, p.187). At that time, it was a trend to envelope “interdependently produced, single-advertiser-sponsored programs” (Baran, 2015, p.187) thus, it cost less by employing one sponsor and led to more revenue in broadcasting entertainment such as the quiz show. Paley claimed that the quiz show did well in regards to business because it provided people with what they wanted, which was entertainment. So, what Paley was trying to say was that See It Now needed to not only find a new sponsor but also shift its focus to entertaining news, often called soft news, in order to attract the sponsor so the sponsor would invest in the show’s time. Paley was commenting on the fact that Murrow’s intense investment in digging deep into McCarthy’s claims and proclamations was too controversial and intense for viewers. Viewers preferred entertainment and enjoying themselves as opposed to the controversial claims and intense investigation that Murrow was seeking out, which ultimately did lead to the censorship of McCarthy and stands today as one of television’s finest moments.

Baran, Stanley J. “Chapter 8.” Television, Cable, Mobile Video. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2015. Print

The Battle Over Citizen Kane and the Emergence of Yellow Journalism

The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996)
Michael Epstein
Thomas Lennon
David McCullough (host)
Orson Welles (archive)
William Randolph Hearst(archive)
Richard Ben Cramer(narration)

By Rebecca Doser and Yoshifumi Kobayashi

the battle over citizen kane
Fig.1: “The Battle Over Citizen Kane” aired on the Public Broadcast System in 1996.

The Battle Over Citizen Kane (Fig. 1) is a documentary that was broadcasted  by the Public Broadcast System as one of the episodes of the American Experience Series on January 29, 1996. It is about the clash between American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and actor, writer, and director Orson Welles in regards to Welles’ 1941 motion picture Citizen Kane

Fig. 2: William Randolph Heart owned The New York Journal.

Orson Welles based his movie Citizen Kane on the career of William Randolph Hearst (Fig. 2), who built the nation’s largest newspaper chain and influenced American journalism greatly. Hearst was a “God in the newspaper business” according to the documentary. He was born in 1863 and died in 1951. One in five Americans was reading a Hearst newspaper a week, according to the documentary. His great power came from all the media outlets he controlled. According to the documentary, the movies were more powerful than the newspaper ever could be, but no one understood this back then. Hearst was determined to make art and the written word the property of the masses. This segment of the documentary is important when comparing how different Hearst’s mindset was in using newspapers to attract the masses where as nowadays, films and television socially construct peoples’ perception of reality as seen in Fahrenheit 451, much more than the written word does.

Hearst first took hold of The San Francisco Examiner when he was very close to flunking out of Harvard. Then he took hold of The New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World, which led to the creation of yellow journalism, early 20th-century journalism highlighting sensational sex, crime and disaster news (Baran, 2015 p. 77). He created the largest newspaper and magazine business in the world but the competition between Heart’s Good Morning Journal and Pulitzer’s World was so intense that it devalued journalism and caused much skepticism especially when yellow journalism got out of hand.

Hearst exerted significant political opinion and constantly pushed his opinion during the period known as “Yellow Journalism” (1895-1898). He once hired a woman to collapse in the streets just to see how the community responded,  and further, so he could publish an article on how people treated indigent women in society, according to the documentary. Douglass Fairbanks Jr. says that Hearst once said,”You can crush a man with journalism and you can’t with motion pictures.” Hearst took yellow journalism to a whole new level with large headlines, big front-page pictures, extensive use of photos and illustrations and cartoons (Baran, 2015, p. 77). For example, many historians believe that the sinking of the Maine was engineered by Hearst in order to create a war that his papers could cover and build as much circulation as possible (Baran, 2015, p.77). The newspaper wars of this era were thus very sensationalized and exaggerated.

Fig. 3: Hearst’s front page depicting the destruction of the war ship Maine.

Take for example, the Spanish-American War of 1898. The terrible conditions in Cuba were dramatized for the sake of journalism. The most well-known story was that of Frederic Remington, a Canton, NY native, who telegraphed Hearst to tell him that Cuba was fairly quiet and that “there would be no war.” Hearst responded, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” The conditions in Cuba was bad enough, but when the war started, Hearst basically took credit for the war itself when he ran a headline reading, “How do you like the Journal’s war?” on his front page. This drastic nature of yellow journalism was mainly in NYC. For example, in the Journal, Hearst focused on the enemy who set the bomb and he even offered a huge reward to readers (Fig.3).

Hearst played the role of a  public preacher by publishing political hype and opinions in his own publications. He succeeded in establishing the first nationwide newspaper chain in America, from L.A. to Chicago, by purchasing more and more newspapers. People were able to see his headlines everywhere, which allowed him to “dictate public opinion all across the country.” The narrator of the documentary, Richard Ben Cramer, interpreted this phenomenon saying, “It was a soapbox of a size no candidate had ever enjoyed.” Hearst, the most renowned owner of American newspapers at that time, was manipulating his readers. He elevated himself to make political statements that he deemed as newsworthy and attractive to the masses by enacting the harsh, sensationalized platform of yellow journalism. He stood atop his “soapbox,” which allowed him to transform newspapers in a way in which he directly effected the emotions and perceptions of reality of those who invested in his newspaper.

story-telling of war of the worlds
Fig. 4: Orson Welles telling the story of War of The Worlds on the CBS radio network.

While yellow journalism  was utilized to emphasize attracting readers’ attention, Orson Welles attempted to use the CBS radio network as a platform to tell an extremely terrifying  story, War of The Worlds, in real time (Fig.4). This daring and reckless decision caused a serious panic among the listeners in the United States because they believed the story was happening at that very moment. This event proved how “average” people were defenselessly influenced by the products that these mediums yield, which is known as the mass society theory and  hypodermic needle theory (Baran, 2015, p. 325). At the same time, this panic produced by Welles through the radio medium suggested a decline in the power of the mass society theory (Baran, 2015, p. 325), since there were people who had not taken any action after listening to the radio five times more than those who believed it. Therefore, this consequence showed the development of the limited effects theory, which used to be the hypothesis emerging that “media influence was limited by individual differences, social categories, and personal relationship” (Baran, 2015, p. 326).

As for the battle over Citizen Kane, Hearst seemed to beat out Welles since eventually, Welles needed to close his company due to its bad reputation intensified by Hearst’s obstruction. However, Hearst’s attack to seize the movie, Citizen Kane, by writing poorly about the movie in his newspapers would possibly be the greatest advertising of the movie ever, as his newspapers were read by countless people. Hence, some individuals may assume that his obstruction actually helped the movie and allowed Welles to be nominated nine Academy Awards in total.

Does yellow journalism still exist today? The answer is easy: 100 percent yes. Many newspapers display the most exaggerated picture on the front page to attract people and make them buy it, no mater how skewed the truth may be. There are even magazines that only deliver gossip, which is often exaggerated significantly by editors in order to actually persuade people to pick up the magazine in the store or click on the article headline on the internet. Also, due to the development of new technology and personalization, Youtube has become one of the largest platforms to portray exaggerated events, such as Hollywood gossip (Fig. 5) uploaded by so-called Youtubers. Now, yellow journalism is even easier to provide and create because of technological developments and it is clearly an element in today’s society that attracts many individuals of our current generation.

Fig. 5: An example of yellow journalism today.

Baran, Stanley J. “Chapter 4.” Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2015. Print