Media Influence On The Vietnam War Literature Review

Length: 3 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Communication - Journalism Type: Literature Review Paper: #55710326 Related Topics: Vietnam War, Media Bias, Media, Vietnam
Excerpt from Literature Review :

Media Coverage and the Vietnam War: A Literature Review

Few events in U.S. history had the dramatic and lasting impact on American culture as did the Vietnam War. Many historians and commentators attribute the war's outcome and legacy to the treatment it received by the mainstream media. A review of a sampling of the literature on this subject reveals a very diverse, sometimes acrimonious, view of the media's influence on the Vietnam War.

In Michael Mandelbaum's Vietnam, The Television War, he discusses the convergence of television news coverage and the Vietnam war in the early 1960s. As of 1963, for the first time, most Americans were looking to national network news on television for information on current world events (Mendalbaum 159). As the conflict in Vietnam escalated, the networks devoted more coverage to the fighting. The American public, at the time by and large supporting the war effort, tuned in nightly and kept the ratings high. The news networks were making more money as a result and had more resources to devote to the coverage. This relationship spiral upward, just like American


Thus, for the first years of the war, the media coverage could be said to be a direct result of the American public's thirst for information (Mendalbaum 161).

Daniel Hallin, professor of Communication at the University of California at San Diego, presented a paper at a conference on American Media and Wartime Coverage in 2003. Hallin eloquently and insightfully delineates the influence of the media on the war, as well as the influences the war had on the media. Many conservative critics, says Hallin, contend that the media turned the American public against the war, and that is how the war was lost.

Hallin believes that the media was actually quite supportive of the war until sometime after the Tet Offensive in 1968. He states that it is more accurate to pinpoint the decline of media support for the war to decline in the morale of U.S. soldiers fighting the war in Vietnam itself. At that time, the media stopped reporting military operations as victories, regardless of how successful they were. Further, since this was the war fought in America's living room, it is significant that the press was not censured by the military, even though it was greatly sanitized by the networks to be suitable for airing over the public airways.

George C. Herring's review of PBS' Vietnam: A Television and AIM's Television's Vietnam, two made for TV retrospectives of the Vietnam War offers cogent analysis of the media coverage of the war and the influence it had on the American society. The two reviewed productions emphasize the polarizing effect that the war on Americans, but also on how the media's portrayal of the war at the time influenced the way American's felt. As Herring points out, the entire warfare in Vietnam, all thirty plus years of it, was a mainstay on the radar of the national media. Certainly, the last ten years of the conflict were thoroughly chronicled to a very interested audience (Herring 1123).

Herring is quick to acknowledge some of the virtues of the vast media coverage, such as the instantaneous creation of invaluable historical…

Sources Used in Documents:


Braestrup, Peter. The Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1977

Hallin, Daniel. Presentation given at the "American Media and Wartime Challenges"

Conference. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, (March 21-March 22, 2003).

Herring, George C. Reviewed work(s):Vietnam: A Television History by Richard Ellison and Television's Vietnam. Part I; Part II by Peter Rollins. The Journal of American History, Vol. 74, No. 3, (Dec., 1987), pp. 1123-1125

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