Interview two people in their seventies or eighties—someone who likes to talk!—and ask
him or her questions about his or her mass media experiences in the twentieth century
(1930s on). Use the questions below as a starting point and add others as you see fit.
If you don’t have a family member or other acquaintance in this age bracket, there are retirement communities and nursing homes in the area filled with people who would love to talk to you.
a. Print: What books, magazines and newspapers did you read and why? Where did you get them? Were there things you couldn’t read?
b. Telephone: Did you have a phone growing up? How many? If not when did first get one or where did you go to make calls.
c. 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?
d. 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?
e. 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 corporate sponsors of TV shows?
What (if anything) do you remember about the quiz show scandals?
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 it, how did you decide to get cable or satellite TV? What factors went into this decision?
f. Movies: What were your first movie going experiences like, and how were they different from today?
What were some of your favorite films growing up and why?
Do you remember anything about Al Jolson and the first talkies?
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?
g. Internet and New Technology: When and why did you get your first computer? (If they don’t have one then ask why not)
How much time do they spend on the computer and what do they do? (are they just playing games or surfing the web.)
Do they do e-commerce, download music or email people?
Do they know about Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Blogging, You Tube (etc) and do they use any of these technologies?
Please organize your interview information according to the following guidelines, trying to
make your paper as readable and accessible as possible:
Interview participants at the top of the page.
sound recording, radio, TV/cable, Internet and movies.
might be fun to read in class—include what your participant said verbatim.
your participant didn’t say anything interesting or worthwhile about radio, skip that category
entirely. (He or she might make up for it in another category.)
made you say “Wow” or “Aha!”
In your summary conclusion compare your media experience with theirs and ask yourself 50 years from now how might you respond to a similar project.