In 1833, the New York Sun emerged as the first of the penny press newspapers, which would rely on cheaper printing technologies, sensationalist news, and more advertising to increase profits. Two generations later, a new generation of publishers relied on these techniques, most notably at the onset of the Spanish-American War. On February 17, 1898, headlines in William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal screamed, without evidence, that the "Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of the Enemy." The Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, the titans of "yellow journalism," sensationalized the news, using the explosion of the Maine in Havana's harbor to build support for a war with Spain and increase circulation.

InformationAllegorical print honoring Cyrus Field, who built the Atlantic cable linking Great Britain and the U.S., 1866.

Thirty years later, radio freed the listener from ink and paper and captured a mass market. The radio was in so many households by 1930 that the census asked a non-demographic question for the first time – How many radios do you have? Orson Welles showed the power of radio in 1938 when his "War of the Worlds" radio play, dramatizing a fictional alien landing at Grovers Mill, New Jersey, created panic among listeners. Dorothy Thompson of the New York Tribune commented, "They have proved that a few effective voices, accompanied by sound effects, can con­vince masses of people of a totally unreasonable, completely fantastic proposition as to create a nation-wide panic."

Television, at first the plaything of the wealthy, greatly expanded its audience by developing more entertaining programming, becoming the dominant entertainment medium not long after in the 1950s. Another technological breakthrough was the more portable still camera. In the 1950s and 60s these two media were able to capture the more horrific moments of the Civil Rights Movement and bring them into the homes of Americans and around the world. Gordon Parks, the great African-American photographer, said that he "picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty." This belief inspired many photographers of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Internet has opened new avenues to transmit information. Wikileaks has uncloaked the secrets of gov­ernment policy to hundreds of millions of people, while smart phones have delivered the excitement of the Arab Spring through tweets and Facebook postings. Although repressive governments closed their borders to journal­ists, protestors sent out messages of their struggle for freedom. While some aspects of the Internet have been successfully commercialized, corporations and entrepreneurs are still trying to figure out how to capitalize on this new technology.

InformationDust Bowl farm in NE Texas, where most houses have been abandoned, 1938.