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Political Reporters

History

Instantaneous worldwide communication first become a reality in 1895 when an Italian engineer named Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated how to send communication signals without the use of wires. In the early 1900s, transmitting and receiving devices were relatively simple, and hundreds of amateurs constructed transmitters and receivers on their own and experimented with radio. In 1906, Reginald A. Fessenden achieved two-way human voice transmission via radio between Massachusetts and Scotland. Small radio shows started in 1910; in 1920, two commercial radio stations went on the air; and by 1921, a dozen local stations were broadcasting. By 1926, stations across the country were linked together to form the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Four years later, the first radio broadcast was made around the world. Radio, along with newspapers and magazines, served as the primary source of news for Americans in the pre-television era.

Modern television developed from experiments with electricity and vacuum tubes in the mid-1800s, but it was not until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt used television to open the New York World's Fair, that the public realized the power of television as a means of communication. Several stations went on the air shortly after this demonstration and successfully televised sporting events and the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1940. The onset of World War II limited the further development of television until after the war was over.

Since television's strength is the immediacy with which it can present information, news programs became the foundation of regular programming. Meet the Press premiered in 1947, followed by nightly newscasts in 1948. In the 1950s, the Federal Communications Commission lifted a freeze on the processing of station applications, and the number of commercial stations grew steadily, from 120 in 1953 to more than 1,500 broadcasting television stations in the early 2000s.

It was in the 1960s that television's power became most apparent: together the country mourned the death of President Kennedy, witnessed the murder of his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby, and formed opinions on the Vietnam War based on live TV news footage and commentary from political reporters.

In the following decades, political reporters continued to play a pivotal role in educating the public about important news events, including Watergate, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, the Persian Gulf War, the impeachment hearings of President Clinton, the contested presidential election of 2000, the government's response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and countless other political issues of local, regional, national, or international importance.

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