Geoffrey Baym describes three eras of broadcast television news

High-modern broadcast television was a progressive route of objective journalism. Salant insisted that, “our job is to give people not what they want but what they ought to have.” This entailed a rationalized approach to reporting that prioritized professionalism. High-modern broadcast was about providing objective and relevantly important information. The aesthetic entertainment portion was left to others channels and outlets. Given Cronkite was the leader of the high-modern era, his sign off says more about the era than any summary, “that’s the way it is” – narrowness, accuracy, relevancy, and as objective as someone reporting information could be.

Postmodern broadcast television developed with the trend that news producers would report to attract rather than inform audiences; instead of telling it the way it is, they told it the way the audience most wanted to hear it. In a sense, you can relate this postmodern broadcast television to the yellow journalism of newspapers. Their goal was to sell political ideologies and agendas, not constructive and relevant democratically engaging information.

Neo-modern broadcast television is a new way of pursuing the old goal of public information and democratic accountability by providing a wide variety of public figures discussing a vast range of issues. The information is provided through different communicational mediums – satirical, dialogue, blatant criticism, and hurtful truth. In addition, neo-modern broadcast makes the audience feel as if they are participating in the news.

In regard to social change, what matters isn’t so much the social change that occurred during the high-modern and postmodern eras, simply because they are in the past and have already been documented. What needs to be observed is the social impact and restructuring that the neo-modern broadcast television, and neo-modern journalism in general, is creating. Steve Colbert and John Stewart are the avant-garde of the neo-modern broadcasting. Because there is an equal draw of information and entertainment in their forms of broadcasting, it creates a different way for people to talk about and engage with politics. The audience is now more skeptical of what is truly going on than ever before (in a positive way!). Their desire to have news deconstruct political situations that they want to be involved in allows the public to perceive their political movements on a point-by-point bases, giving them simplicity of understanding as well as simplicity in being involved. However, this type of neo-modern era is to, in the words of John Stewart, “provide one little bit of context,” to help people see a “larger picture” than they might otherwise. Adding my own belief into the mix now, I feel that the neo-modern era of journalism appeals to a majority of previously unconcerned citizens. I think that this new age journalism is about getting citizens concerned, interested, and intrigued about civic duties and democracy without them knowing it. Then, from observance of friends who began watching neo-modern broadcast television, the audience soon enough expands their mindsets and pursues more postmodern and, more importantly, high-modern broadcast. This plays a part with what John Stewart said. Stewart’s type of broadcast is meant to be one piece of the civically engaged citizens puzzle. There are negative connotations with it because it just so happens to be the first puzzle piece in this age of millennials. But the first puzzle piece is still political involvement.

Garth Beyer

Garth Beyer is a Madison-based writer and Public Relations Strategist focused on telling stories, running through trend-making PR strategies and trying new things in life.

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