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Mass Media Experiences

Interview a person in his or her seventies, eighties, or nineties (someone who likes to talk!) and ask questions about his or her mass media experiences in the twentieth century (1930s on). Use the questions below as a starting point. If you don’t have a family member or other acquaintance in this age bracket, there are plenty of retirement communities and nursing homes in the area filled with people who would love to talk to you.

A. Sound recording: What records did you listen to? Who was your favorite recording artist? What kind of record player did you have, and where was it in your home? Was there any kind of music you weren’t supposed to listen to? Why? Were you allowed to play music whenever you wanted, or were there parental limitations in your home? How much did a record cost? Where did you buy your records? How did you find out about the artists you listened to? What did your parents think about records and record players?

B. Radio: What do you remember about your experiences with radio? What kinds of programs did you listen to? (entertainment, music, talk, etc.) When were they on, and why did you like them? Do you remember anything about the early radio commercials? Do you remember any public concern about radio commercials? Do you remember any educational radio programs? What technical problems did you experience with your radio set? Do you have some specific memories (good or bad) about listening to the radio when you were young? What are they? What was it like when FM radio became available?

C. Television/Cable: What was it like when TV became available? Where did you watch your first TV programs, and what was the viewing experience like? How much did your family’s first TV set cost and what factors figured into its purchase? What was reception like? What was a typical family viewing session like? How did TV change your home life? What do you remember about the first 30-second TV commercials? How do your television experiences in the 1950s compare with your television experiences now? If you have cable or satellite TV, how did you decide to get it? What factors went into this decision?

D. Movies: What were your first moviegoing experiences like, and how were they different from today? What were some of your favorite films growing up and why? What do you remember about the excitement surrounding Gone with the Wind? Were there films your parents forbade you to see? What were they and why were you not allowed to see them? What films were the most influential for you?