The forgotten role of the global newsreel industry in the long transition from text to television

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Political communication scholars often mark the increasing popularity of electronically broadcast news film as a dividing line between a text-based information culture that survived through World War II and a visually oriented electronic information culture that was in place by the late 1960s. Yet this standard view is incomplete, for it neglects a forgotten but extremely popular worldwide system of visual news reporting based on documentary film shorts. A global system for distributing twice-weekly newsreels was already in place before the First World War, nearly half a century before television news would begin to attract large national audiences and seven decades before CNN would begin distributing news footage once again to all corners of the world. This article aims to reorient political communication scholarship to the historical importance of the newsreel medium and to direct political communication scholars to the rich trove of newsreel film stock that recently became available for analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-218
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Documentary short films
  • Global news broadcasting
  • Newsreels
  • Pretelevision news broadcasts
  • Soft news

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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