Excerpt from a speech delivered at the We Media Conference, October 5, 2005
Reprinted from the Associated Press
Available online at The Media Center at the American Press Institute, www.mediacenter.org/wemedia05/the_program
When the thirteen American colonies declared independence from England in 1776, their leaders were tired of taking orders king. In founding a new nation, they established a democracy in order to give common people a voice in government. Democracy is based on the idea that political power should rest in the hands of the people. Since it would be difficult to ask everyone's opinion on every important issue, though, citizens in a democracy typically vote to elect leaders to represent them in government. These representatives help ensure that the government hears the opinions and serves the interests of the people.
"Television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But … it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation."
The free exchange of information and views between citizens and their elected officials is key to the functioning of a democracy. In the early years of television, many people believed that the new medium would provide valuable support for the American system of government. Supporters felt that television would be an important source of news and information for the people of the United States. They predicted that it would help citizens understand the inner workings of government, evaluate important issues, and elect the best candidates to represent their interests.
As television grew rapidly during the 1950s, it often fulfilled its potential as a tool for democracy. Hard-hitting news and public affairs programs such as See It Now, which aired on CBS from 1951 to 1958, investigated serious issues affecting American society. Its host, the legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow (1908–1965; see Chapter 5), constantly pushed to use the power of television to expose problems and fight against injustice.
See It Now is probably best known for a 1954 program about Joseph McCarthy (1908–1957), a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who had ruined the careers of many American politicians and entertainers by falsely accusing them of being Communists. McCarthy used the tensions of the Cold War (1945–91; a period of intense military and political rivalry that pitted the United States and its democratic system of government against the Soviet Union and its Communist system of government) to hurt his enemies and advance his own career. Murrow's show helped turn public opinion against McCarthy. Following televised hearings before Congress, the senator fell from power.
In 1960, a series of debates between two presidential candidates were broadcast on television for the first time. An estimated 77 million viewers—or more than 60 percent of the adult population of the United States at that time—tuned in to watch Democratic senator John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) face off against Republican vice president Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994). The debates helped Kennedy convince the American people that he had the experience and maturity to be president, and he ended up winning the election a few months later.
Network coverage of news and politics decreases
Over time, however, television gradually reduced the amount of air time that it devoted to news, politics, and public affairs. A 2002 study reported in Electronic Media, for instance, showed that fewer than half of the local newscasts in major cities carried any stories about the upcoming Congressional elections. The stories that did appear averaged 80 seconds in length, and only 20 percent of them included any quotations from political candidates.
Coverage of politics also declined at the national broadcast networks. By the time the Democratic and Republican parties held their presidential nominating conventions in 2004, the networks provided only about three hours of coverage for each four-day event. Critics claimed that television was no longer meeting its responsibility to inform the American people and support the democratic process. They said that the networks were more concerned about attracting large audiences and earning money. "That the networks see fit to turn their backs on this process is disturbing," stated an editorial in Television Week. "Their scaling back of convention coverage in recent years is obviously motivated by the bottom line, another step in the ongoing abandonment of any commitment to public service."
At the same time as the national networks and local stations reduced their coverage of news and politics, however, a number of new cable TV channels emerged to fill the gap. Some of these channels provided viewers with nearly constant footage of their government in action. For instance, the cable network C-SPAN showed everything that happened in the U.S. Congress, from speeches and debates to votes on important legislation. Similar channels were created in more than twenty-five states to cover the inner workings of state legislatures and local governments. Supporters claimed that these channels gave viewers unprecedented access to their elected leaders and were the next best thing to attending sessions of Congress in person. But critics argued that such channels only provided information in one direction—from elected leaders to the people—and did nothing to promote citizen participation in the democratic process.
Other critics complained that the rise of political cable channels made it easier for the national broadcast networks to ignore politics. They claimed that the lack of prime-time coverage of important political events like press conferences, debates, and conventions led voters to believe that the democratic process was less important than entertainment programs. They blamed such attitudes for the steady decline in the number of eligible voters who participated in national elections over time. In 1960, the year of the first televised presidential debates, 63 percent of the voting-age population of the United States cast ballots in the election. Voter turnout declined gradually over the next forty years to reach 51 percent in 2000, according to Federal Election Commission statistics quoted on the Museum of Broadcast Communications Web site.
Critics also argued that the lack of mainstream media attention given to politics forced candidates for public office to buy advertising time on television to make their case to voters. Instead of focusing on the qualifications of the candidate, many of these campaign commercials contained negative attacks on a political opponent's views, voting record, or personal life. Critics claimed that these negative campaign advertisements eventually became voters' main source of information about candidates and elections. When voters received mostly negative information, they tended to become disillusioned with the political process and stop paying attention. The Federal Election Commission statistics showed that the four presidential debates before the 1960 elections earned a 59.35 average rating (a measure of the percentage of American households that had their television sets tuned to the program). In contrast, the three presidential debates preceding the 2000 elections earned only a 28.13 average rating.
Al Gore expresses concerns about democracy
One of the main critics of television's impact on the democratic process was former vice president Al Gore. Albert Gore Jr. was born in 1948 in Washington, D.C. The son of a U.S. senator, he spent his childhood going back and forth between Washington and his home state of Tennessee. Gore earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1969. He then joined the U.S. Army and served as a military journalist during the Vietnam War. When his military service ended in 1971, Gore took a job as a reporter for the Tennessean, a newspaper based in Nashville.
In 1976, Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and he earned re-election three times. In 1984, he launched a successful campaign to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate. One of his major accomplishments during his years in Congress was helping to secure government funding for the Internet. During the late 1980s, Gore also wrote a bestselling book about environmental issues called Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. After an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1992, Gore agreed to become the vice presidential running mate for nominee Bill Clinton. Clinton won the both the 1992 and 1996 elections, and Gore served as vice president for Clinton's two terms in office.
In 2000, Gore ran for president against Republican Party candidate George W. Bush (1946–). The quality of television news coverage became a major issue during the election. On the night that Americans cast their votes, the TV networks used data collected at the polls to predict the results in various states. As the vote tallies came in, it became clear that the election would be very close. Ten minutes before the polls closed in Florida, the major broadcast networks announced Gore as the winner in the state. A short time later, however, the networks decided that the results were too close to call and placed Florida back into the undecided column. Before the evening ended, the networks had changed their minds once again and predicted Bush as the winner in Florida.
The results in other states eventually made it clear that Florida controlled the outcome of the election. The ballots in Florida were recounted by hand, and even then the results were challenged in court. The 2000 election was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which halted all recounts in December and declared Bush the next president of the United States. Afterward, TV news came under harsh criticism for its election-night coverage. Critics said that the networks behaved in a reckless and irresponsible manner by predicting a winner in Florida before they had enough information to do so correctly. Some analysts claimed that the errors occurred because the networks had been forced to cut back on their political reporting staff in order to reduce costs. In any case, viewers disapproved of the way the networks handled the election results, and many lost faith in the accuracy of network news.
After the election, Gore returned to life as a private citizen. He became a lecturer at several universities and also served on the boards of directors for several major companies, including the Google Internet search company and Apple Computer. He eventually emerged as a vocal critic of the Bush administration and its handling of the U.S. economy, its record on environmental issues, and its decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. Gore also spoke out publicly about the effects of the news media on the political process and American democracy.
In a speech presented at the We Media Conference in October 2005, which is excerpted below, Gore claims that democracy faces a significant threat because television has not done a good job of keeping the American people informed. He says that the broadcast networks have blurred the line between news and entertainment, often focusing on celebrity scandals and gossip instead of politics, in order to create programs that receive high ratings and earn big profits.
Gore argues that the dominance of television as a communications medium has made it impossible for individuals to participate in the American democracy. He says that television has destroyed the marketplace of ideas—or the free exchange of views and opinions between citizens and their elected representatives—that provides the foundation of the democratic process. He mentions that most of the government regulations intended to ensure that television served the public interest have gradually disappeared. He also provides several examples of individuals and groups who tried to purchase television air time to present their views on important issues, only to be denied the opportunity by the large media corporations that control American television.
Things to remember while reading the excerpt of Al Gore's We Media Conference speech:
- In his speech, Gore mentions the results of a 2005 survey that found between one-third and one-half of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terrorist attacks against the United States of September 11, 2001. When President George W. Bush was preparing to launch a U.S. military invasion of the Middle Eastern nation of Iraq in 2003, he said that the attack was necessary to prevent Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. The Bush administration claimed that it had evidence that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons. It also suggested that a link existed between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attacks. After the invasion of Iraq took place, however, both of these statements were proved to be untrue. Gore argues that the news media did a poor job of informing the American people of this fact.
- Gore also asks why the American people are not more concerned about the abuse of prisoners. He is referring to a series of incidents that occurred at U.S. military prisons in Iraq, when American soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners who were suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. Gore feels that there should have been more media coverage and public discussion of these incidents.
- Gore notes that in the 1960s, people who felt frustrated at their inability to participate in political discussions through the media could instead participate in demonstrations. During this era, millions of Americans took part in protests against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1954–75). They also marched in support of equal rights and opportunities for women and minorities in American society.
- Gore also mentions Network, an award-winning 1976 movie about the inner workings of a fictional television network called Union Broadcasting System (UBS). UBS executives decide to fire a longtime news anchor, Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), because the ratings for his program are declining. When they inform Beale that he will be replaced in two weeks, he goes crazy on the air and threatens to commit suicide during his final broadcast. As it turns out, though, Beale's unstable behavior attracts huge ratings, so the network decides to keep him on the job. Network commented on the priorities and decision-making processes of television news programs in a darkly funny way. Gore suggests that some of the situations that seemed absurd in the movie eventually became reality in the TV news business.
Excerpt of Al Gore's We Media Conference Speech
I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.
How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe "?
I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O. J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap [in income levels] between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?…
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was—at least for a short time—a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans—including some journalists—that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.
In fact, there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.
Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well-informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge….
Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press—as King George had done—they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print.
And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.
Radio, the Internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention—but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day—90 minutes more than the world average.
When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher….
Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar.
But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow—and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist."
But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines. And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.
It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum " in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.
And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation….
Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.
Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.
Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.
Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.
The number of [television] cables connecting to homes is limited in each community and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a few. The production of programming has been centralized and has usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control virtually all of the television programming in America.
Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television….
It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S.—including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine —though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.
And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie Network, which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.
The news divisions—which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network—are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do….
Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather —who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House—television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up. "
The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the "horse race " and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is "if it bleeds, it leads. " (To which some disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it stinks. ")
In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore.
Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.
And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.
One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news.
This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of The Daily Show, when he visited CNN's Crossfire: there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.
And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.
One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30—second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.
That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.
Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politics. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.
And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.
MoveOn.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to [President George W.] Bush's Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told "issue advocacy " was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the MoveOn ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So MoveOn complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the MoveOn ad.
The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.
The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America's marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.
Our democracy has been hollowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created….
It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting " and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.
What happened next …
After making his address at the We Media Conference, Gore continued to speak out about a variety of important issues. In 2005, he helped launch a new cable television network called Current. The channel's Web site proclaimed that it would help people learn about and understand the world by presenting information from an independent political viewpoint. In 2006, Gore published a book and appeared in a documentary (fact-based) film called An Inconvenient Truth. Based on a series of lectures he gave across the country, the book and movie present information about the causes and consequences of global warming (a gradual increase in average temperatures on Earth).
Did you know …
- In 2006, Al Gore hosted the popular late-night comedy-variety program Saturday Night Live. As the show opened, Gore was shown sitting behind a desk at the White House. He then delivered a humorous speech to the American people, describing the situation in the United States as it might have been if he had become president in the 2000 elections.
- One of Gore's roommates at Harvard University was actor Tommy Lee Jones, star of such films as The Fugitive, Thelma and Louise, and Men in Black.
Consider the following …
- Each member of the class should watch the news on television (whether a national network newscast, a local newscast, or an all-news cable channel) for several nights. Keep track of what stories receive the most attention and the order in which the stories are presented. Upon comparing results, what patterns do students notice? How much of the TV news coverage was devoted to politics?
- Do you think that watching television is a good way for Americans to become politically informed? Why or why not?
- Imagine that you feel very strongly about a political issue and want to express your opinion publicly. Make a list of some of the things you might do to bring attention to your cause. How many people could you hope to reach using each option on your list? Is any other medium of communication as effective as television in influencing other people?
- Many people believe that television can be used as a tool to strengthen the American democracy. Can you also think of ways that television might serve to weaken American democracy?
For More Information
Hilliard, Robert L., and Michael C. Keith. The Broadcast Century: A Biography of American Broadcasting. Boston: Focal Press, 1992.
McChesney, Robert W. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communications Politics in Dubious Times. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
"Democracy on TV: Don't Blink." Electronic Media, October 21, 2002.
"Editorial: Networks Cavalier about Democracy." Television Week, August 2, 2004.
Gitlin, Todd. "How TV Killed Democracy on November 7." Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2001.
Jackson, Sarah. "Prime Time Democracy: A Growing Number of Public Affairs Networks Demystify Democracy." State Legislatures, January 2006.
O'Brien, Meredith. "How Did We Get It So Wrong?" Quill, January 2001.
Campbell, Angus. "Has Television Reshaped Politics?" Museum of Broadcast Communications. http://www.museum.tv/debateweb/html/equalizer (accessed on July 27, 2006).
"Gore, Abert Arnold, Jr." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplaypl?index=G000321 (accessed on July 27, 2006).
Kierstead, Phillip. "Network News." Museum of Broadcast Communications. http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/N/htmlN/newsnetwork/newsnetwork.htm (accessed on July 27, 2006).
"The Life of A Gore." Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/campaigns/wh2000/stories/goremain100399.htm (accessed on July 27, 2006).
The Media Center at the American Press Institute. http://www.mediacenter.org/wemedia05/the_program (accessed on July 27, 2006).
Democracy: A system of government in which citizens make decisions, usually through elected representatives.
Discourse: Conversation or discussion.
Marketplace of ideas: The free expression of opinions on all sides of important issues.
Alternate universe: Strange and unfamiliar place.
Aberration: Unusual occurrence.
Saddam Hussein: (1937–) Former president of the Middle Eastern nation of Iraq who was removed from power by U.S. forces in 2003.
September 11, 2001: Date when members of the Al Qaeda terrorist group crashed commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.
O. J. trial: The 1995 court case in which former professional football player O.J. Simpson (1947–) was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her male friend.
Serial: Occurring one after another, in a series.
Economic stress: Worries about money.
Apathetic: Uncaring; indifferent.
Lethargic: Slow-moving and lazy.
Hurricane Katrina: A severe storm that devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and other parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005.
Founders: The Founding Fathers of the United States, who led the movement to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776.
Literate: Skilled in reading and writing.
Rule of Reason: Governing through logic and good judgment.
Viability: Lasting power.
King George III: (1738–1820) Ruler of England whose policies led the American colonies to seek independence in the Revolutionary War (1776–1781).
Hemorrhaging: Bleeding a lot; losing quickly.
Circulation: Copies sold.
Republic of Letters: Literate and well-informed America.
Discretionary: Free or leisure.
Standards: Basic rules or guidelines.
Edward R. Murrow: (1908–1965) Respected CBS News reporter.
Succinctly: Briefly; getting straight to the point.
Forum: Meeting place for the exchange of ideas.
Interactivity: Communication; back-and-forth ontact.
Monopoly: Situation in which one company controls an entire business or industry.
Spectrum: Range of frequencies able to carry communication signals.
Capital: Financial or monetary.
Predecessor: Something that came before.
Apprehension: Concern or worry.
Public Interest Standard: A phrase included in the Communications Act of 1934 that said broadcasters using the public airwaves had a responsibility to serve the "public interest, convenience, and necessity."
Equal Time Provision: An FCC regulation that required TV stations to make equal amounts of air time available to all qualified candidates for political office.
Fairness Doctrine: An FCC policy that required broadcasters to present opposing viewpoints about controversial issues of public importance.
Repealed: Canceled or no longer enforced.
Rush Limbaugh: (1931–) Conservative radio talk show host.
Hate-mongers: People who spread hatred.
Farce: Comedy; something too absurd to be true.
Prophecy: Accurate prediction of later events.
Morphed: Changed or transformed.
Conglomerates: Large corporations with a wide range of business interests.
Subsidized: Supported financially.
Revenue: Money or earnings.
Agenda: Plan or schedule for working toward goals.
Bureaus: Offices in major news cities around the world.
Canned: Organized or packaged in advance; predictable.
Fabricated: Fictional or made-up.
Tabloidization: Placing an emphasis on celebrities and Popular culture rather than important news and issues, similar to tabloid magazines.
Dan Rather: (1931–) Longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News who retired in 2005, possibly due to his role in broadcasting a 2004 story questioning President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Tarted up: Made sensational or sleazy.
Horse race: Competition to lead in statistical polls of voters.
Axiom: Widely accepted truth.
If it bleeds, it leads: Stories that are violent or sensational receive the most prominent coverage.
If it thinks, it stinks: Stories that are complex and require viewers to pay attention receive the least coverage.
Red state and Blue state: A reference to political divisions in the United States. The term is based on the maps used in TV election coverage, which use colors to indicate whether the residents of individual states voted primarily for Republicans (red) or Democrats (blue).
Robert Blake: (1933–) Actor who starred in the 1970s TV cop show Baretta and was accused of killing his wife Bonnie Lee Bakely in 2001.
Laci Peterson: A pregnant woman who disappeared in California in 2002 and was found murdered; her husband was eventually found guilty of the crime.
Michael Jackson: (1958–) Pop singer who was accused of molesting children.
Runaway Bride: A woman who disappeared before her wedding and became the subject of a nationwide search.
Search in Aruba: The search for Natalee Holloway, an Alabama teenager who disappeared while visiting the Caribbean island in 2005.
Global climate crisis: A gradual warming of the Earth that many scientists blame for severe weather patterns and other problems.
Fiscal catastrophe: Financial problems that occur when the government spends more money than it takes in from taxes.
Jon Stewart: (1962–) Host of a popular late-night, satirical news program on the cable TV network Comedy Central. In a controversial guest appearance on CNN's debate-oriented news program Crossfire, Stewart argued with the hosts about the news value of the show.
Subjugation: Conquering and controlling.
Campaign finance reform: Proposed laws to limit fund-raising and spending by candidates for political office.
Mediate: Balance between competing interests.
MoveOn.org: An Internet-based organization dedicated to helping individual citizens have a voice in politics.
Issue advocacy: Expressing an opinion about a social or political issue.
Pervasive: Always present; seen and heard everywhere.
John Kenneth Galbraith: (1908–2006) Famous economist, author, and college professor.
Invisible hand: An economic theory that states a competitive market for goods and services regulates itself.
Inherent: Basic, underlying; essential.
Irrelevant: Not important.
Hollowed out: Made empty or lacking in inner substance.
Video streaming: Technology that allows the reception and display of video signals on a computer.
Time shifting: Recording television programs to watch at a time other than when they are originally broadcast.
Gore, Albert Arnold, Jr.
GORE, ALBERT ARNOLD, JR.
He has been a reporter, an environmentalist, a congressman, and served as vice president of the United States, but Al Gore may go down in history as the unsuccessful candidate in possibly the most contested presidential race the United States has ever seen. Having spent the majority of his life in the political ring, Gore made two unsuccessful bids for the presidency. The first came in 1988, when he was a fledgling senator; the second was in 2000, following two terms as vice president under bill clinton. In the protracted 2000 race, Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote to george w. bush. He became the third candidate in history to receive the greatest share of the popular vote, but lose the presidency. In 2002, Gore announced that he would not try for the office a third time, claiming,"there are many other exciting ways to serve."
Gore was born in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1948. His father, Albert Gore Sr., at the time served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee. The senior Gore was to serve in the House and the Senate for nearly three decades. His mother was Pauline LaFon Gore. She had the distinction of being one of the first women to graduate from the law school at Vanderbilt University.
Gore attended St. Alban's Episcopal School for Boys in Washington, D.C., where he was an honor student and captain of the football team. In 1969, he received a B.A. with honors in government from Harvard University. He was interested in becoming a writer, rather than following his father's footsteps as a politician. After graduation he enlisted in the army, although he opposed the intervention of the United States in the vietnam war.
While stationed in Vietnam, Gore served as an army reporter. After Gore left the military service in 1971, the Nashville Tennessean hired him as an investigative reporter and, later, as an editorial writer. In addition to his journalism career, Gore was a home builder, a land developer, and a livestock and tobacco farmer.
Interested in religion and philosophy, Gore enrolled in the Graduate School of Religion at Vanderbilt University during the 1971–72 academic year. In 1974, he entered Vanderbilt's law school but left to enter elective office two years later.
In 1976, Gore ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He won the primary election against eight other candidates and went on to win in the general election. He ran successfully in the three following elections. Gore claimed some early attention in 1980 when he was assigned to study nuclear arms as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He researched and eventually published a comprehensive manifesto on arms restructuring for future security, which was published in the February 1982 issue of Congressional Quarterly. In 1984, Gore campaigned for a seat in the U.S. Senate that had just become vacant. He won that office with a large margin of votes.
While in Congress, Gore focused on several issues, including health care and environmental reform. He worked for nuclear arms control and disarmament, as well as other strategic defense issues. He also stressed the potential of new technologies, such as biotechnology and computer development.
As the decade came to a close, Gore set his sights on the race for the 1988 presidential election. Only 39 years old at the time, he ran on traditional domestic Democratic views and was tough on foreign policy issues. He failed, however,
to develop a national theme for his campaign and was criticized for changing positions on issues. Gore was successful in gaining public support in the primaries during the early spring and won more votes than any other candidate in southern states. However, he obtained only small percentages of votes in other states and withdrew from the presidential nomination campaigns in mid-April.
Two years later Gore won election to a second term in the U.S. Senate. He chose not to seek the presidency in 1992, citing family concerns (his son Albert had been hit by an automobile and was seriously injured). It was during this time that Gore wrote the book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, which expressed his concern, ideas, and recommendations on conservation and the global environment. In the book he wrote about his own personal and political experiences and legislative actions on the environmental issue. One of Gore's statements in the book that sums up his philosophy regarding the environment and human interaction is,"We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."
"No matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out."
In the summer of 1992, Bill Clinton selected Gore as his vice presidential nominee. The choice startled many people because it ended a long-standing pattern of a candidate choosing a vice presidential nominee to "balance the ticket." Both men were of the same age, region, and reputation and moderate in political outlook. Gore did balance Clinton's strength, however, by bringing to the ticket his experience in foreign and defense policy, expertise in environmental and new technology matters, and an image as an unwavering family man.
Clinton and Gore won the election in 1992, and Gore was inaugurated as the 45th vice president on January 20, 1993. At the age of 44 years, he became one of the youngest people to hold the position. Clinton and Gore were reelected in 1996, running against Republicans bob dole and Jack Kemp.
During his time as vice president, Gore continued to stress environmental concerns. In 1997, the White House launched an effort to start producing a report card on the health of the nation's ecosystems. This project was carried out by an environmental think tank and initiated by Gore.
That same year, however, Gore's reputation was somewhat tarnished when he was accused of and admitted to making fund-raising telephone calls from the White House during the 1996 presidential campaign. Gore held a press conference on March 3, 1997, to defend his actions, saying there was nothing illegal about what he had done, although he admitted it may not have been a wise choice. Gore was also criticized for toasting Li Peng, initiator of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, during a trip to China. In September 1997, Buddhist nuns testified before the Senate panel investigating the abuses of campaign fundraising. The nuns admitted that donors were illegally reimbursed by their temple following a fund-raiser attended by Gore, and that they had destroyed or altered records to avoid embarrassing their temple. Some believe these incidents further damaged Gore's reputation.
Despite questions of impropriety, Gore announced his candidacy for president in 1999. By early 2000, he had secured the majority of Democratic delegates for the 2000 elections. Gore chose Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate to face Texas governor George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, former secretary of defense. Although Bush took an early lead in the polls, the Gore campaign closed the gap. Gore sought not only to demonstrate his compassion in a variety of speeches, but also to distance himself from Clinton. As the November 7 election approached, most observers predicted a deadlock.
During the afternoon of November 7, 2000, it appeared as if Gore would win the election, and several media outlets declared him the unofficial winner. However, vote tallies from the late afternoon and early evening revealed that Bush had closed the gap. By the evening of November 7, the totals showed that although Gore had won the popular vote, Bush won the electoral college. Gore immediately requested a recount of the votes in the state of Florida, where voting procedures had caused a great deal of controversy. For the next month, the results of the election hung in the balance as both sides postured in a series of court disputes. However, the U.S. Supreme Court, in bush v. gore, 531 U.S. 98, 121 S. Ct. 525, 148 L. Ed. 2d 388 (2000), over-turned an order by the Florida Supreme Court requiring a recount of ballots in several counties. Gore then conceded the election to Bush.
In 2001, Gore accepted a position at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism as a visiting professor. He has also accepted teaching positions at universities in his home state of Tennessee. Although many observers expected him to run again for president in the 2004 elections—and although a number of grassroots
organizations have urged his running—Gore announced in December 2002 that he would not enter the race. "I personally have the energy and drive and ambition to make another campaign, but I don't think it's the right thing for me to do," he said in an interview with the CBS program 60 Minutes. "I think that a campaign that would be a rematch between myself and President Bush would inevitably involve a focus on the past that would in some measure distract from the focus on the future that I think all campaigns have to be about."
Gore married his college sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Aitcheson, in 1970. Tipper Gore holds a B.A. degree from Boston University and an M.A. in psychology from George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. She is actively involved in a number of issues, including AIDS, education, and homelessness. She has also has been a longtime advocate for mental health, and gained national attention in the 1980s through her efforts to influence the record industry to rate and label obscene and violent lyrics. She was cofounder of the Parents' Music Resource Center, which monitors musical and video presentations that glorify casual sex and violence. The Gores have four children: Karenna, Kristin, Sarah, and Albert III.
"Gore Says He Won't Run in 2004." 2002. CNN.com: Inside Politics. Available online at <www.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/12/15/gore/index.html#x003E; (accessed June 27, 2003).
Turque, Bill. 2000. Inventing Al Gore: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Born: March 31, 1948
American vice president, senator, and congressman
Al Gore, U.S. representative, senator, and forty-fifth vice president of the United States, lost one of the closest presidential elections in history, in 2000, to George W. Bush (1946–). Gore is known for his strong interest in conservation and has spent much of his time in public office working to preserve and protect the environment.
A lot to live up to
Albert Gore, Jr., was born in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1948. His father, Albert Gore, Sr. (1907–1998), served in the House and the Senate for nearly three decades. His mother, Pauline (LaFon) Gore, was one of the first women to graduate from the law school at Vanderbilt University. As the son of a senator, Gore learned at an early age what it was like to live in the public eye. This gave him a sense of caution that made him seem mature beyond his years.
Gore received a bachelor's degree, with honors, in government from Harvard University in 1969. He then served as an army reporter during the Vietnam War (1955–75; a civil war in which South Vietnam, with the help of the United States, was fighting against Communist forces in North Vietnam). During the war, on May 19, 1970, Al Gore married his college sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Aitcheson. The couple eventually had four children.
After returning from Vietnam, Gore went on to work as a reporter in Nashville, Tennessee. He was also a home builder, a land developer, and a livestock and tobacco farmer. He went back to school, studying philosophy (the search for an understanding of the world and a human being's place in it) and law at Vanderbilt University.
In 1976 Gore decided to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. With his famous name, as well as running in the district that had sent his father to Congress for many terms, he beat eight other candidates in the primary election and went on to win in the general election. He ran successfully in the three following elections. Gore received some early attention in 1980 when he was assigned to the House Intelligence Committee studying nuclear weapons. He researched and wrote out a detailed plan to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, which was published in the February 1982 issue of Congressional Quarterly. He also focused on health- and environment-related matters. He stressed the future usefulness of new technologies and computer development. In 1984 Gore campaigned for a seat in the U.S. Senate and won by a wide margin.
In 1988 Gore decided to enter the race for the presidency. He was only thirty-nine years old. He was criticized for failing to develop a national theme for his campaign and for changing positions on issues. He had some early success in primary elections in the spring, winning more votes than any other candidate in southern states. However, he obtained only small percentages of votes in other states and withdrew from the race in mid-April. Two years later he won election to a second term in the U.S. Senate. He chose not to run for the presidency in 1992 because of family matters. His son had been hit by a car and was seriously injured.
It was during this time that Gore wrote the book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, which expressed his concerns, ideas, and recommendations on conservation and the global environment. In the book he wrote about his own personal and political experiences and legislative actions on environmental issues. His feelings about the environment are best expressed in this statement from the book: "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."
Surprising turn of events
In the summer of 1992, Bill Clinton (1946–) selected Gore as his running mate (vice presidential candidate). The choice surprised many people because it ended a longstanding pattern of candidates choosing running mates to "balance the ticket, " that is, by choosing running mates of different ages or from different areas of the country. Both men were about the same age, came from the same region, and had similar reputations and political viewpoints. Clinton's idea was to project a new generation of leadership as a campaign theme. Gore provided balance for Clinton with his experience in foreign and defense policy, his knowledge of environmental and new technology issues, and his image as an honest family man.
The highlight for many who followed the campaigns of 1992 was a series of debates, one of which involved Gore and his opponents, Republican Dan Quayle (1947–) and Independent James B. Stockdale (1923–). The debates were marked by moments of comedy, as Quayle and Gore argued over the wording of Gore's book Earth in the Balance. Stockdale admitted that he had turned off his hearing aid. Quayle attacked Gore's record of environmental concerns, claiming Gore was placing endangered species (animals that are in danger of disappearing from the earth) over people's jobs. Gore argued that a well-run environmental program would create jobs while preserving nature.
Clinton and Gore won the election, and Gore was inaugurated (sworn in) as the forty-fifth vice president on January 20, 1993. At the age of forty-four, he became one of the youngest U.S. vice presidents in history. Clinton and Gore were reelected in 1996. During his time as vice president, Gore continued to focus on environmental concerns. In 1997 the White House launched an effort, initiated by Gore, to start producing a "report card" on the health of the nation's ecosystems. (An ecosystem is made up of a community of plants and animals that share a certain area, and the nonliving elements in that area, such as oxygen, soil, water, and sunlight.)
In 1997 Gore's reputation was damaged when he admitted to making fund-raising telephone calls from the White House during the 1996 presidential campaign. Gore held a press conference to defend his actions, saying he had done nothing illegal. Gore was also criticized when, during a trip to China, he raised his glass and proposed a toast to an official named Li Peng (1928–). Li Peng had been involved with the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, when soldiers killed thousands of students and workers who were demonstrating for democracy in Beijing, China.
Still, as Clinton's second term was winding down in August 2000, the Democratic Party formally named Gore as its choice to run for president. Gore revealed a long-range economic plan that he claimed would balance the budget, reduce the national debt and keep interest rates low while creating new opportunities for the middle class. However, after a long campaign and legal challenges to the Florida vote count that delayed the official result, Gore lost to Texas governor George W. Bush (1946–) in one of the closest presidential contests in American history.
Despite Gore's loss in the 2000 presidential election, he continues to be an active and well-respected political figure. Many believe that the 2000 election was not Gore's last attempt at the presidency.
For More Information
Gore, Albert. Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Jeffrey, Laura S. Al Gore: Leader for the New Millennium. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1999.
Turque, Bill. Inventing Al Gore. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Albert “Al” Gore Jr. has served his country for decades as a U.S. representative, senator, forty-fifth vice president of the United States, and spokesperson for environmental issues.
Gore was born on March 31, 1948. He was the son of U.S. representative and senator Albert Gore Sr. (1907–1998) of Tennessee , who served for nearly three decades. Because of his father's occupation, Gore grew up in Washington, D.C. After graduating from high school, where he was an honor student and captain of the football team, he went to Harvard University. In 1969, he received a bachelor's degree, with honors, in government. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army , although he opposed the United States's intervention in the conflict in Southeast Asia that was the Vietnam War (1954–75).
Army reporter and more
While stationed in Vietnam, Gore served as an army reporter. He published some of his stories in a Nashville, Tennessee, newspaper. After Gore left the military in 1971, the Nashville Tennessean hired him as an investigative reporter and, later, as an editorial writer. Interested in religion and philosophy, Gore also enrolled in the Graduate School of Religion at Vanderbilt University in 1971. In 1974, he entered Vanderbilt's law school but left after two years to enter politics.
Career in Congress
It was in 1976 that Gore decided to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His name was well known because of his father's career, and he won that year and in the three following elections. In 1980, Gore was assigned to the House Intelligence Committee. He researched nuclear arms and eventually published a comprehensive manifesto (a written declaration of intentions or principles) on arms restructuring for future security. In 1984, Gore campaigned for a seat in the U.S. Senate and won with a large margin of votes.
While in Congress, Gore took an interest in health issues, the environment, and nuclear arms control and disarmament, as well as other defense issues. He stressed the potential of new technologies, such as biotechnology and computer development.
Early presidential aspirations
In 1988, the thirty-nine-year-old Gore attempted to win the Democratic Party ‘s presidential nomination. Criticized for changing positions and issues, and falling behind in the primaries, he eventually withdrew.
Two years later, he won election to a second term in the U.S. Senate. He chose not to seek the presidency in 1992, citing family concerns (his son, Albert III, had been hit by an automobile and was seriously injured). It was during this time that Gore wrote the book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, which expressed his concern, ideas, and recommendations on conservation and the global environment.
In the summer of 1992, the Democratic nominee for president, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001) selected Gore as his vice presidential running mate. It was considered an unusual choice. Most presidential candidates choose running mates from different backgrounds or parts of the country in order to “balance the ticket.” Clinton and Gore, both southern Democrats, projected the youthful vigor of the baby boomer generation (the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964). They considered themselves to be “New Democrats,” moderates who hoped to move the party back to the center (away from political extremes). Gore did balance Clinton's strengths by providing experience in foreign and defense policy, expertise in environmental and new technology matters, and an image as an unwavering family man.
Clinton and Gore won the election in 1992. At the age of forty-four, Gore became one of the youngest vice presidents in U.S. history. Clinton and Gore were reelected in 1996. During his time as vice president, Gore continued to stress environmental concerns.
The 2000 election
Gore announced his candidacy for the 2000 presidential election in June 1999; he was nominated by the Democratic Party in August 2000. Following the Republican Party 's convention, Gore's opponent became Texas governor George W. Bush (1946–). They faced off in one of the closest presidential contests in American history.
On the evening of election day, November 7, 2000, news agencies began projecting that Gore had won the popular vote and appeared to be the victor. Around 10 PM, however, news reporters began referring to Florida's popular vote as too close to call. By morning, there was still no new president-elect.
The problem was in Florida . Vote tallies completed there were extremely close, and serious technical voting problems had arisen in four counties. (See Voting Techniques Controversy ). Recounts began. Republican officials tried to have the recounts stopped, which would have resulted in a narrow victory for Bush. Democrats took the matter before federal judges, and the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously that manual recounts could continue. Bush's lawyers appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court . The nation waited to find out who would be the next president.
On December 12, a bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that the recounts were unconstitutional. It ordered a halt to all further recounts. Gore, who had won the popular vote of the nation, conceded the election to Bush.
After the 2000 election
Gore's many followers urged him to run in the 2004 presidential election. A fierce opponent of the Bush administration's policies in the Iraq Invasion (2003–), Gore declined, saying he felt the country needed a fresh face for its next candidate. Gore was outspoken in his criticism of Bush and some of his top aides, even calling for their resignation for creating a catastrophe in the Middle East. He continued to strongly support the Democratic Party, but the next spotlight he stepped into was not in the political arena.
A different calling
As evidence of global warming—the gradual increase in the world's temperatures caused by the emission of gases that trap the sun's heat within the earth's atmosphere—grew strong, Gore turned most of his focus to his longtime interest in the environment. He put together a slide show to try to educate people about global warming and presented it in cities and towns throughout the country. In January 2006, the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim, had its world premiere. The documentary simply films Gore presenting his compelling slide show. The documentary was viewed by millions and won many awards, including an Academy Award for best documentary.
In early 2007, Gore announced that he was collaborating with producers to launch Live Earth, a set of musical concerts featuring the biggest names in contemporary music, to be held in cities on every continent on July 7. The concert reached an estimated audience of nearly two billion people worldwide via television, raising consciousness about the urgency of global warming. For his efforts to educate the public about the environment and global warming, Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Gore stated his intention not to run for the presidential election in 2008, though his documentary and concert and several years of outspokenness had enhanced his popularity.