The Newsreel Audience
This chapter will explore the reception of newsreels in various countries. Using contemporary observation studies, oral history testimony, memoirs, works of fiction and poetry, it will construct a complex picture of how newsreels were received and understood, in the contexts of cinema history, news consumption and social history. The newsreel is important in media history in terms of how it represented news choice for audiences. Previously, audiences had gained their news from the one medium, newspapers. The newsreels could never compete with newspapers in terms of a daily service, but by positioning themselves as part of a chain of news provision—by offering moving images of stories that the newspapers had established in the public’s mind as ‘news’—they helped create an understanding of news that was not the product of a publishing organization but rather something that was sought out by, and therefore created by, the audience itself. Thus, the newsreel was an important first step in leading to the multiplicity of news and information sources offered to us in the twenty-first century. Seeing how audiences understood and contextualized newsreels in terms of the information and entertainment worlds about them will help us appreciate the significance of newsreels, and understand the roots of news consumption as it now exists.