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February 1993


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"James D. Peterson" <[log in to unmask]>
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Thu, 25 Feb 1993 09:00:19 CST
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I was very interested to hear your appraisal of the follow-ups to HARVEST OF
SHAME.  But I wonder if it's quite true that nothing has changed.  I'm
certainly no expert on the subject, but it was my understanding that
conditions had improved markedly, though migrant workers still live in what
most Americans would consider sub-standard conditions.  But I thought things
weren't quite so dire as they were in 1960.  Do you have any more
information on the subject?  My students are always interested in this
question after they see  H of S (they are of the concerned but not
personally inconvenienced type, too).
Of course, if conditions have improved at all, I would be inclined to
attribute that to the United Farm Workers rather than to Edward R. Murrow
and company.
One last point.  I don't think it's quite right to suggest that media
programming doesn't change anything.  After all, why would we waste our
breath condemning films and television that strike us as pernicious if we
didn't think they had any effects?  The mistake comes (in my opinion) in
thinking that a single film or program will have a dramatic effect.  I'm not
the first to make the comparison, but the effect of the one-time Harvest of
Shame broadcast was minimal; the effect of seeing TV coverage of the Vietnam
war night after night was crucial in mobilizing public opinion and political
support in the US.
James Peterson
University of Notre Dame
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