skip to main contentThe University of Texas at Austin
Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
AboutPresidentsPhotojournalistsCenter for American HistoryViewing ToolsLearning Tools
Center for American History

Press and the Presidency
In the 19th century, many Americans had no idea what the President of the United States looked like. How times have changed…These days, the media provides us with round-the-clock images and information that invariably shapes the way we view our presidents. "This is the living stuff of history that previous generations did not have," says Lew Gould, Fellow of the Center for American History and author of The Modern American Presidency.

Of course, the power of the press works in both directions--presidents use it as an instrument of persuasion, while the public uses it to satisfy curiosity. As media coverage of the White House surged, so did the public's interest in the private lives of the presidents and their families. "First Ladies have helped us understand how we define presidents and their wives as families," says Gould (see photos at right). "The agenda for the press has expanded--it's not just the president as a kind of robotic policymaker, but as a real live, breathing human being who has a wife, family and problems."

Cactus Jack cover Photo of Walter Cronkite as war correspondent

From First Ladies to war meetings, anything and everything having to do with the Oval Office has been scrutinized in the media. The Center has been documenting the relationship in its News Media History Archive and American Political History Collections. From the "Cactus Jack" sheet music written for John Nance Garner's presidential campaign to Walter Cronkite's papers to dueling election result Newsweek covers (one declaring Clinton the winner, the other naming Bush the victor), the extensive archives and collections demonstrate how the press and the presidency have become virtually inseparable.

 
Mission of the Center

Reading Photographs

Press and the Presidency

Additional Resources

See the photographs from the Center for American History

First Lady Betty Ford dances on the Cabinet Room table.Former First Ladies Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Betty Ford, Reagan and Bush at the Ronald Reagan LibraryPresident Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and President-elect George W. Bush


Video Clip
Still from Images: The First Rough Contact Prints of History video
"Images: The First Rough Contact Prints of History"
transcript


Video Clip
Still from The First Ladies video
"The First Ladies"
transcript


The Briscoe Center for American History