Decision 2012: Media Literacy
Since 1952, TV campaign ads have played a role in presidential elections. And from the beginning, ads have used deceptive techniques to try to sway public opinion. In 1952, campaign ads for Republican candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower appeared to show "Ike" responding to questions from ordinary Americans, but in fact the people asking questions had never met the candidate. They were filmed separately and edited together with footage of Eisenhower's canned responses.
Eisenhower's opponent, Democrat Adlai Stevenson, didn't like the idea of campaign ads on television. "The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process," he said. But Eisenhower won the 1952 election by a landslide, and campaign ads were here to stay. So voters need to develop the ability to separate truth from fiction when watching campaign ads.
Watch this preview for the Newseum-produced video "Every Four Years: Presidential Campaign Ads" and read this article about the history of campaign ads. Then think about this: How have campaign ads changed over time? How have they stayed the same? How can you tell if the information you see in a campaign ad is true? Do campaign ads always look like traditional commercials? How do today's candidates use the news media to boost the visibility of their ad messages?
Visit the Newseum to see the complete "Every Four Years: Presidential Campaign Ads" video on the 100-foot-wide screen in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater.
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