TV and the Election of 1952

Essay by polish00 December 2003

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Since the Pioneer Corporation introduced the first television sets to the United States in the 1940s, television has been developing its practice as a political reporter. The Korean War and World War II interrupted its progress, but it made huge steps in the presidential election of 1948 and in the off-year contests of 1950. In 1940, the first televised political convention was brought to about 40,000 to 100,000 people , but there's really no record that television had an impact on the convention procedures or on the election that followed. Television was still in the novelty stage at that time. By July 1948, television was growing so much that the political potential of the medium began to be realized. That year, an estimated 10 million people saw the conventions. But there was no commercial sponsorship of network coverage of activities. Even in 1948, there were predictions that television would change conventions dramatically, stripping them of spontaneity and changing the traditional hall atmosphere with the addition of strange equipment.

The impending influence of television was evident to voters when they saw the first television commercials and the first televised conventions. In 1952, a media analyst said that television "would never replace traditional forms of electioneering." Little did he know that starting that very year, he would be proven wrong.

The 1950 elections began to suggest the political potency of the new medium. Though television was still restricted to metropolitan areas in the East and Far West, there were stations in two-thirds of the states. TV was important in some states, but it had yet to demonstrate nationwide potentialities and was not an integral part of any candidate's campaign. Even so, candidates began to be assessed in terms of their personalities and ability to use television effectively.

By the time the 1952...