This timeline is part of an ongoing project that will be updated.


In 1971, the Pentagon Papers, a secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political and military involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967, were leaked to Neil Sheehan of The New York Times by former State Department official Daniel Ellsberg. The papers revealed, among other things, that the government had deliberately expanded its role in the war all while President Lyndon B. Johnson had been promising not to do so. The document increased the credibility gap for the U.S. government, and hurt efforts by the Nixon administration to fight the ongoing war.

The New York Times began publishing excerpts as a series of articles on June 13, 1971 and controversy and lawsuits quickly followed. President Richard Nixon was incensed by series, telling National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger that “People have gotta be put to the torch for this sort of thing.”  After initially failing to get The New York Times to stop publishing, Attorney General John Mitchell and President Nixon obtained a federal court injunction that they cease publication of excerpts. On June 18, 1971, The Washington Post began publishing its own series, having obtained portions of the papers from Ellsberg. That same day, the Post received a call from the Assistant Attorney General, William Rehnquist, requesting they stop publishing. 

The U.S. Supreme Court merged both cases into New York Times Co. v. United States. On June 30, 1971 the Supreme Court held in a 6–3 decision that the injunctions were unconstitutional prior restraints and that the government had not met the burden of proof required. The ruling made it possible for The New York Times and The Washington Post newspapers to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers without risk of government censorship or punishment. This is generally considered a victory for an extensive reading of the First Amendment, but its decision did not void the Espionage Act or give the press unlimited freedom to publish classified documents.

© The New York Times 

View the archived papers in its entirety here.


Cable News Network (CNN) is founded by Robert "Ted" Turner in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the world’s first 24hr news channel and the first all-news television channel in the US. Previous to CNN’s founding, most Americans got their TV news in a 30 minute broadcast at 6pm every evening from the “Big Three” networks: NBC, CBS and ABC. CNN will revolutionize the news gathering business for television; its success will inspire the creation of Fox News in 1996.



The U.S. Senate joins the U.S. House of Representatives in allowing broadcast coverage of floor debates. (C-Span). This seemingly innocuous rule will have major unintended consequences when Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, will use late night speeches to a largely empty chamber to help build a conservative political movement across America.

© C-Span

View the complete Senate session from June 2, 1986 here.


In 1993, owner of the Post, Peter S. Kalikow declares bankruptcy. 

The Post is purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation after numerous political officials, including Democratic governor of New York Mario Cuomo, persuade the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant Rupert Murdoch a permanent waiver from the cross-ownership rules Without that FCC ruling, the paper would have shut down. Murdoch, who owns TV stations and newspapers around the world, is credited with using his media outlets to push for political change with a particular focus on candidates who support small government and de-regulation.


Sean Hannity is hired by Roger Ailes to co-host Hannity & Colmes with Alan Colmes. Hannity soon gets his own show in which he promotes various conspiracy theories, such as birtherism, claims that the murder of Seth Rich was part of a conspiracy, and falsehoods about Hillary Clinton's health. According to Forbes, by 2018 Hannity had become one of the most-watched hosts in cable news and most-listened-to hosts in talk radio, due in part to his closeness and access to Trump.  Hannity is extremely close to President Trump, speaking with him most nights and is referred to as “the shadow Chief of Staff.”

His radio talk show,  “Hannity,” is the second highest rated talk program, behind The Rush Limbaugh Show, which leads into Hannity on many stations. The show is carried on 530 stations. Hannity is a three-time consecutive winner of Radio & Records National Talk Show Host of The Year Award from 2003-2005, as well as the National Association of Broadcasters' 2003, 2004 and 2005 Marconi awards for Talk Show Host of the Year, and the Talkers Magazine 2017 Freedom of Speech Award.” 

© Fox News


Bill O'Reilly is hired by Roger Ailes to anchor “The O’Reilly Factor,” on the recently founded Fox News. The show soon becomes the highest-rated show on any of the 3 major U.S. cable news TV channels. O’Reilly pioneers a kind of pugnacious right wing talk show that will become a model for many others in the coming years.  He is eventually fired after at least six women accuse him of sexual harassment.

Both Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting criticize O’Reilly’s reporting for distorting facts. 

© Fox News

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