As the news media has evolved to become an integral amalgamation of both print and visual journalism, the media has developed a crucial dichotomy of newspapers and television as they both act differently upon the minds of the public. Visual media has become the dominant form, as the public has itself become a soundbyte, video-clip-hungry culture with very short attention spans. Local and national evening news programs and CNN now dominate the media because they can follow and keep up with the news by the minute. Newspapers have not become obsolete, but they have become secondary sources of information because they simply cannot keep up with the news from day to day, hour to hour as fast as electronic visual media. The evolution from print to television reshaped the perceptions of the public into what Daniel Boorstin calls "the repeatable experience." (Americans: 370)
While print simply states facts -- albeit certain selected facts that can be presented in many ways -- that allowed the reader for the most part to form his or her own image of a situation like war, television presented an already-interpreted, fully-produced image before the viewer's eyes. Print allows the reader to interpret a series of "facts" and statements to form a perception -- but moving pictures force that image upon viewers. Boorstin cited Thomas Edison's perceptions of how moving pictures could act strongly upon viewers; Edison said: "I am experimenting upon an instrument that does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion." (Americans: 376) The effects of "mass-producing the moment" (Americans: 359) revolutionized the American media -- moving pictures brought the public one step closer to actually experiencing the events reported in the press.
Television has begun to dominate news coverage, especially that of wars. Because of the impact images have on the American people -- their immediacy, power and active nature of presenting information -- they are able to present the public with what they want: quick segments of news delivered quickly. Some acadmeics acknowledge that this media has become dominant because of its broader range of coverage and its speed. In the Development of American Journalism, Sidney Kobre declared this superiority: "Today, better coverage of national and international events has been achieved by television news staffs. The broadcasting companies have added more trained men and have constantly improved their picture transmission equipment." (Kobre: 713)
Television simply acts differently upon a viewer than newspapers do upon readers. Aside from reporting more quickly and being able to cover a broader range of events around the nation and the world, television influences viewers more dynamically. While newspapers depend upon attention spans, literacy and readership, television is everywhere. According to A.C. Nielson statistics in 1993, 98 percent of American households -- 92,100,000 homes -- had at least one television. At the same time, the Editor and Publisher Yearbook reported newspaper circulation at only 39,670,682, a drop of 1,748,730 from the previous six-month period. Television has thrust itself into the eyes and ears of the American public -- they cannot get away from it.
By presenting the public with dynamic, undeniable, active images, television has taken much of the public's interepretation out of journalism. The images are already hand-crafted and present a dynamic all of their own. This is the essence of the change from print to visual journalism -- images have more power to enact emotion and reaction from Americans and do much of the job of actively interpreting news themselves.