COMMENTARY: Broadcasting History involving aliens, cheating on gameshows and more

Nov 02, 2021 at 07:43 am by WGNS

A little broadcast history involving aliens, cheating on gameshows, and the date of November 2nd… With more, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism Larry Burriss:

Scroll down for more on this audio commentary...


VERBATIM: “Tuesday, Nov. 2, is something of an historic day in broadcasting, with more than a touch of irony.

On Nov. 2, 1920, KDKA began operations by broadcasting the Harding-Cox election returns. This event is claimed by some to be the first regularly scheduled broadcast in the United States and is often hailed as the seminal event in the development of broadcast news.

Almost exactly 18 years later, 1938, a hoard of Martians led by Orson Welles very nearly destroyed the United States.

And exactly 39 years after KDKA, Nov. 2, 1959, Charles Van Doren, sitting before a congressional committee, admitted he had cheated on the game show, "21."

The reverberations from the disclosures, that a popular American game show was fixed, nearly destroyed American television.

So what is the connection between the Harding-Cox returns on Nov. 2, 1920, Orson Welles in 1938 and the Charles Van Doren revelations of Nov. 2, 1959?

Just this: broadcasting is more and more quickly moving away from reality into fiction. Not in entertainment, but in news and information.

Orson Welles, Charles Van Doren, and the producers of "21," showed just how easy it is to deceive the public.

In the publishing world this was called "the new nonfiction." We saw writers such as Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese making up events, quotes and scenes under the guise of recreating reality.

But, they weren't trying to pass off their creations as reality.

Traditionally news as absolute truth was considered sacrosanct. People historically were trained to accept news as reality. Television news in particular grew up telling the people that they are seeing real life.

Harding-Cox in 1920 brought reality to our living rooms. Orson Welles showed the power of the medium, and Charles Van Doren showed the results of deception and duplicity.

Those who produce and deliver news need to go back to the philosophy that dealt with reality and integrity, not fiction and duplicity. - I'm Larry Burriss”


About Dr. Burriss

Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.


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