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Could there have been no 'CNN effect' before the birth of satellite television?

The Emergence of CNN Effect in the 1990s

The concept of ‘CNN effect’ first emerged in the year of 1990s. At a time when the political as well as economical crisis emerged during 1990s drew the attention of the entire world, the ‘CNN effect’ was first recognized (Badsey, 2013). Over the years, the term ‘CNN effect’ has been a discussion. In connection with the term, the role of the popular broadcast channel has grabbed the attention of the scholars since the term ‘CNN effect’ has secured its place in the political science and media studies as phenomenon. Playing its role as a watchdog of the society, the impact of the news channel CNN on serious issues across the world gave birth to the term. Many researches were done on the term ‘CNN effect’, as to define or clarify the concept of ‘CNN effect’ and its impact on society, politics and economy of the world (Coban, 2016). However, it also raises question on the role of other branches of media as to why the broadcast channel has a significant impact on society and politics over the other forms of media that are radio, print and online. Hence shedding light on the phenomena ‘CNN effect’, the essay will analyze where there were any possibilities of another ‘effect’ before the era of satellite television.  In the whole course of the discussion, the study will give special attention on how the term ‘CNN effect’ came into use and how it became a phenomenon of media studies and political science. Meanwhile the essay will also throw light on the role of the 24*7 news channel CNN behind the emergence of term. The main part of the discussion will include the analysis of the reasons for which there was no media influence on society in an active manner like ‘‘CNN effect’’ before television era. Finally the report will conclude by giving a summarization of the whole essay.  

According to Coban, (2016), during the crisis of humanitarian crisis in the 1990s, the 24*7 news channel CNN have aired some shocking image of humanitarian crisis which forced the U. S. policy makers for intervention in the issue of humanitarian issue which they might not consider showing interest to. From that the ‘CNN effect’ emerged as the theory that media mainly the 24*7 news network has the ability to influence the political as well as economic climate significant manner.

As per Campbell, (2017), media being played the role of a watchdog of the society draws the attention of the viewers to a particular matter or incident that are of serious concern to the society. By making coverage of incidents that are of interest for the sake of society, the news networks can persuade the government or international organizations or individual to take more proactive action to an issue of social immense importance. Instances can be given with the illustration of CNN.

CNN during the later period of Cold War and post Cold War period, CNN’s coverage had major impact on the state’s foreign policy (Coban, 2016). Since press or news network is considered to be the ‘fourth estate’, the news network always has the ability to impact the representatives of the democracies in terms of policy making. The news network CNN played the pioneering role in establishing the term as a theory.

Role of CNN in Establishing the Theory

In accordance with Doucet, (2018), the coverage of events like the First Gulf War, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Battle of Mogadishu and the fall of the Communism in Eastern Europe are some of the most vital incidents that brought the actual scenario of the incident forced the American government to give immediate attention to the matter for the sake of people. In addition, the incident of Kurdish Crisis and Bosnia War deserve mention since CNN’s coverage of those incidents brought the situation into highlight of U. S. government which led to their serious intervention of the matter (Coban, 2016). This is how the term ‘‘CNN effect’’ came into use with the journalism by CNN. Originated from the CNN coverage, the term has come in the use in a broader sense in the modern media studies as a theory and it is no more exclusive to CNN or any other news network.

In terms of theory in the political science and media science, ‘CNN effect’ is considered as the theory following which journalism serves its actual purpose, the speaker of democracy (Cushion, 2015). In a more integrated manner, ‘CNN effect’ is considered as the way of spreading the news to public without adding colors to it or without any political or any other propaganda (Deaville, 2013). In other words, ‘CNN effect’s can be referred as the abilities of the news network in order to shape the public opinion and the policy makers in a democratic country. Thus the term ‘CNN effect’ stresses on the active journalism of the news networks that exclusively emerged in the post satellite television era. 

Now the question may arise that why could not have been there any ‘CNN effect’ before satellite television era. In order to discuss in a detail in critical manner, it must be elaborated the nature of media coverage and the role of media before the birth of satellite television. During the pre satellite television period the news network was mainly dominated by the print media.

As per Deaville, (2013), until 20th century, print media had been the primary mode of journalism. For a prolonged period, newspaper industry was solely depended on manpower; from writing news articles to editing and proofreading the manual system through hand written mode were followed (Gilboa et al., 2016). From news gathering to publishing it, the entire process were extremely time consumable since it was manual. It was often seen that the news would lose its significance when they were published. The reason behind it was time the delay in publishing as it had to go through the prolonged manual process.

However, even though the impact of press was significant on the society during the period, the instant news and its ability to draw the attention of the readers were not there (Hawkins, 2015). The purpose of the print media was seemed to be mainly providing information to the public. The readers had to wait for a whole long day to get important news through newspaper. Sometimes, analytical report of serious news would keep the readers wait for even two days (Mortensen, 2014). Generally, when important news publishes after two long days, it no more carries significance since within the one or two days, an incident takes up several dimensions. As a result readers had to depend on radio for instant news updates. Due to this, the journalists who would cover any important news like War remained unrecognized since readers were not able to realize the efforts journalists put when they covered stories (Widholm, 2016). However, The Times, The Daily Newspapers and The Guardian played significant role in shaping of public opinion and influencing on the representatives of democracy (Ye et al., 2015)

Comparison with Other Forms of Media

According to Mortensen, (2014), meanwhile, in the latter half of 1800s, several technological developments set the stage for television revolution. Beside of entertaining people, televisions brought revolutionary changes in the news and media industry. Starting with presenting news with a presenter, television gradually made possible for the media houses to air the direct reporting of the journalists from the field. As per Hollihan, (2014), the incidents like the terrorism attack on the World Trade Center in the year of 2001, assassinations of Jogh K Kennedy and Martin Luther King, 1960s Vietnam War are the instances of television coverage that had drew the attention of entire world by airing the direct coverage of those events.

The major change in news industry was brought with the birth of television satellite in terms of news generating. In order to present the news, the news channels did not have to wait for a longer period (Deaville, 2013). The presenters could publish the news as soon as it would come to them. Even till today, before going for print, a news content must go through three stages of checking that is, facts checking, editing and vetting and then publishing whereas the broadcast channels would take very less time since before airing a news, the content only goes through the process of fact checking and the news presenter present the news through verbal communication or a journalist directly report the news from the field. Thus, it is needless to say that direct reporting is way more impactful on the audience since they get the information instantly with visuals.

The impact has become more significant as the reporters started reveal directly the visualization of the actual scenario which helps the viewers to shape their public opinion more clearly. For example, the reporting of the major event like Tiananmen Square protests of in the year of 1989 where CNN’s ‘saturation coverage’ was considered to be strongly impactful in bringing the actual scenario in the forefront of the American government and drove them to take immediate action (Gilboa et al., 2016).

In some incidents like Gulf War or World Trade Center terrorism attack, news channels continuously telecast the ‘follow up’ of the incident and the related other events that were of equal importance (Su et al., 22015). For instance, in the event of World Trade Center terrorist attack in 2001, the journalists went to the field and did on-field reporting so that viewers were able to have the information of the actual situation (Joly, 2014). This would let the viewers know about the different dimensions of the event. Hence it can be clearly seen that television has not only brought changes in presentation of the news but also changed the way through which news or media can have an impact the society’s perspective.

In respect to the discussion, it must be discussed that the ‘opinion’ plays a major role in journalism (Dubernet, 2017). Generally in newspapers opinionated articles are allowed only in the editorials and general articles are meant to be informative.  On the other hand, while broadcasting journalists can be opinionated depending on the situation from which the term ‘CNN effect’ has been derived (Badsey, 2013). According to Campbell, (2017), the impactful journalism is the main aspect of ‘CNN effect’ so that it can achieve the ability of the changing the public opinion while influence the representatives of any country. The major factor for which the there could not have been any ‘CNN effect’ before the birth of television satellite is the publication of the news.

Analysis of Pre-Satellite Television Media Coverage

The speedy airing of the news with a strong influence of society or politics had given birth to the term ‘CNN effect’ (Coban, 2016). Thus it can be concluded that there could not have been any ‘CNN effect’ due to the lack of technology and lack of infrastructure. However, it deserves mention that a significant number of journalists were before the era of television. As per (Cushion, 2015) Many journalists can be named such as Clare Hollingworth, Kate Adie, Diane Abbott and many others secured their place in the history of journalism with their contribution to the society.

Hollingworth, the eminent journalist, broke the news of World War II and kept on covering the events during World War II in the range of the year of 1939 to 1945 (Cushion, 2015). As a reporter of The Daily Telegraph, Hollingworth’s impactful report during several incidents elevated journalism into a different level. Similarly, there were many other reporters’ like Hollingworth or Abbott’s contributions to the society which let journalism strongly have a impact on the politics during the early days of media industry.

Several incidents can be mentioned in terms of journalism that drove nations to change its outlook or implement change. However the problem was the delay in delivery of the news since the term ‘CNN effect’ refers to the speedy delivery of news in a strong impactful manner. For instance, nowadays journalists after covering any news send it to for facts checking and editing and then the news get published on the following day. In a more simplified manner, today’s news publish in tomorrow’s newspaper; by the time newspaper reached to the readers, several developments are occur in the incidents which takes another to publish (Deaville, 2013). The infrastructure problem was even more serious as through fax or post, news contents were being sent to the newsrooms. Instead of digital medium, the contents were being edited manually by the editors.

The news industry itself had seen a boom after television was invented in the 1900s (Gilboa t al., 2016). Today’s newspaper was completely different from what it was before the birth of television. It is evident from the researches that the newspapers could not have the influence on society to that extent like the broadcasting have and the sole reason is speedy delivery of the news.

Meanwhile, ‘CNN effect’ also influences in a considerable manner on international relation beside of human perspective. The ‘CNN effect’ had been evident since the Gulf War as the strong reporting of CNN made the international organizations to give immediate attention on the matter (Hansen, 2015). Playing the role of political catalyst CNN with it strong reporting has established the theory of ‘CNN effect’. The theory of ‘CNN effect’ defines 24*7 news channels like CNN or BBC is the key influencers on the policy makers in determining the policies.

According to Hawkins, (2015), over the years it is evident that policy makers depends on the news covered by the channel. The channel from its early age had been covering news which is of real time importance and the authentic news presentation for the societal interest the channel had gained the reputation of an authentic source of information (Hellmueller & Li, 2015). As mentioned above in the discussion several events gained importance and secured place in history as the CNN coverage brought the actual scenario before entire world. Over the years, a journalist’s view point has been a matter of importance for the policy makers when shape a policy (Hollihan, 2014).

Impact of Print Media on Society

However, it must be remembered that news agencies or media houses do not develop or give birth to policies rather they mobilize news which shape the opinion of the policy makers (Joly, 2014). Thus in this way media or news network has the ability shape the opinion of the policy makers and can provoke the policy makers to take action for the interest of the society. According to Prenzel and Vanclay, 2014), For instance, the news channel CNN’ coverage throughout the whole day during the disorder in the banking industry occurred in the United States provoked the Federal Reserve in order to initiate the actions so that possible effect of such turmoil can be avoided.

This all day long coverage of an incident which is of a serious nature was not possible before the 19th century since there was no television, through which the news could be directly telecasted to the viewers (Cushion, 2015). However, in order to relate with the question - ‘Could there have been no ‘CNN effect’ before the birth of satellite television? – It can be said that news network be it radio or be it newspapers media had always played a vital role in shaping of the opinion of human behavior. Since mass media was not very strong like it is in toady, the way people become aware of the role of media today it was not possible during mid 1900s and before that. Media played the same role then as it does now. However, in respect to that it deserves mention that with the advancement in the news industry not only shapes public opinion but also has created some issue like biasness, polarization and so on.

Thus to conclude, it can be said that a significant number of media houses today are some way or the other influenced by either a political party or business owners and this has become increased with the revolution of television since news  industry draws large amount of  investment from businesses. The media industry had been blessed by the innovation of satellite television. But some curses also are there in terms of political biasness, polarization and other ill practices. However, it must be mentioned that the journalism gets evolved continuously and the main ideology of journalism is to speak for the nation and for its people while shaping public opinion and having an influence on the policy makers. Moreover, the key factor for which there could not be any ‘CNN effect’ before the birth of television is the speedy delivery of news.  Therefore, in the entire course of the discussion, the essay shed a special attention on how the term ‘CNN effect’ originated and how it turned into a theory of media studies and political science. Meanwhile the essay elaborated on the role of the 24*7 news channel CNN behind the origin of the term. The main part of the discussion hence included a critical analysis of the reasons for which there was no media influence on society in an active manner like ‘CNN effect’ before television era.


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