Today in media history: The 1969 Woodstock music festival

Here’s news about the Woodstock festival and a trivia question.

August 18, 1969
An estimated 400,000 music fans watch the last day of the Woodstock festival. Rolling Stone magazine correspondent Greil Marcus describes the event:

They came to hear the music, and they stayed to dig the scene and the people and countryside. Any time, no matter who was playing, one could see thousands moving in every direction and more camped on every hill and all through the woods. The magnificent sound system was clear and audible long past the point at which one could no longer see the bands.The outstanding thing was the unthinkable weight of the groups that played. Take Saturday night and Sunday morning. Here’s the line-up: Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Years After, the Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha Na Na and Jimi Hendrix. It’s like watching God perform the Creation. ‘And for My next number.’

All three of the major TV networks aired stories about the Woodstock festival.

(Video: NBC News)

(Video: CBS News)

(Video: ABC News)

In 2009, for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, The New York Times looked back at festival news coverage.

…Festivalgoers have been known to say Woodstock changed their lives; some academics and journalism experts have noted that the way the media approached popular culture also shifted significantly with the coverage of the three-day festival.

Barnard Collier, the reporter who wrote that article, described a tension among his editors first about whether it should even cover Woodstock, then about what the story was. His original pitch to write about the festival was rejected. But his brothers, who worked in the music industry, told him that it was worth attending, so he went anyway. After the size of the crowds forced highway closings, he called his editors again, who relented. When he started his reporting, Mr. Collier quickly realized that it was not only The Times that had initially ignored the event. He walked into a trailer that the organizers had set up for the press and found it completely vacant.

….But Woodstock also served as impetus for change at publications that had ignored popular culture to that point, said Kenneth A. Paulson, president of the Newseum and a founding editor of USA Today. A new exhibit at the museum presents Woodstock as the starting point for modern music journalism.

….“The news business went from barely covering rock ‘n’ roll to an explosion of coverage in the next year. By the time a review of the Woodstock movie came around, it was less a movie review than a statement of human purpose,” he said, referring to the documentary about Woodstock that came out in 1970. “In other words, we kicked into pretentious gear pretty quickly.”

— “Woodstock in Newsprint
By Joshua Brustein, The New York Times, August 7, 2009

Media History Trivia Question
Who appeared on the cover of the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine? (Answer)

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