Tuesday, April 25, 2006
2003 -- Gore: Decline of Newspapers Bad for Democracy Bemoans TV's Influence, Sees Hope in Web
NOVEMBER 12, 2003
Gore: Decline of Newspapers Bad for Democracy Bemoans TV's Influence, Sees Hope in Web
By Amber McDowell, Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- (AP) The "quasi-hypnotic influence" of television in
the United States has fostered a complacent nation that is a danger to
democracy, former Vice President Al Gore said this week.
Gore, speaking on "Media and Democracy" at Middle Tennessee State
University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, told attendees that the decline of
newspapers as the country's dominant method of communication leaves
average Americans without an outlet for scholarly debate.
"Our democracy is suffering in an age when the dominant medium is not
accessible to the average person and does not lend itself most readily to
the conveyance of complex ideas about self-governance," Gore said.
"Instead, it pushes toward a lowest common denominator."
Gore said the results of that inaccessibility are reflected most
prominently in the changed priorities of the country's elected officials,
who think that debating important issues is "relatively meaningless today.
How do they spend their time instead? Raising money to buy 30-second
Students and members of the community filled the 235-seat auditorium for
Gore's appearance, and several hundred more watched his speech on a
big-screen monitor set up in the building's lobby. It was the first of two
lectures that Gore has scheduled at MTSU as part of the "American
Democracy Project for Civil Engagement," an effort to start a national
discussion on the "vigor of the national democracy."
Students at 200 college campuses across the country also watched Gore's
speech via satellite and asked the former vice president questions by
calling a toll-free number.
Gore, who has taught several classes at MTSU, put on his professor's hat
for much of the lecture, giving attendees a history lesson on the origins
of communication and democracy -- from the first evidence of complex
speech 60,000 years ago to the invention of the printing press to the
eventual evolution of media as it is known today and it's role in a free
Gore said democracy in the United States flourished at the height of the
newspaper era, which "empowered the one to influence the many." That
changed with the advent and subsequent popularity of television, he said,
noting that the average American watches four hours of television a day.
"What does it do to us that has relevance to democracy? Does it encourage
passivity? Is it connected to the obesity epidemic? ... If people are just
staring at a little box four hours a day, it has a big impact on
democracy," he said. Gore said a remedy to television's dominance may be
the Internet, a "print-based medium that is extremely accessible to the
"We have to choose to rehabilitate our democracy in part by making
creative use of these new media and by insisting within the current
institutions of our democracy that we open up access to the dominant
medium," he said.
MTSU student Stephanie Elvey, 20, a junior from Blacksburg, Va., said Gore
"touched on a lot of the views of people who are uneasy with the
complacency" of the American public. "I believe the media feeds into that
complacency because it instills fear in people, makes them believe the
government will take care of the problem. Mostly, people just don't know
what's going on," she said. "People need to be aware of how to make their
Source: Editor & Publisher Online
Amber McDowell, Associated Press Writer , Copyright 2003 Associated Press.
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