Last night I saw something on TV I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a reminder that it was ten o’clock and I should check where my children were. For me the answer is easy because I do not currently have any.
I was so surprised to see this PSA because I hadn’t seen it in a really long time. But growing up I remember seeing it practically everyday. It seems like such a random reminder. Like shouldn’t you already know where your children are? And if not, isn’t that important information whether it is ten at night or ten in the morning?
So let’s explore the origins of this phrase.
It dates back to 1967, known as “the long hot summer of 1967”. At that time many cities such as NYC, Newark, Baltimore, and Detroit, among others, were experiencing civil unrest. There were riots in the streets as well as youths and gangs creating havoc of their own. As a result there were curfew laws established to keep people from being a victim of a violent act and/or participating in one.
These riots and overall violent acts of protest seemed to only increase after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
All of the unrest in society eventually made its way into the newsrooms. Keeping in mind that there was no social media or twenty-four hour news cycle back than, this was the only way to spread a powerful message.
The actual phrase is said to have been coined by news anchor Tom Gregory; from WNEW-TV in New York as well as their Director of On-Air Promotions; Mel Epstein. They began using it every-night as a reminder for parents to keep their kids indoors after it was dark out (when danger was most likely to occur). Their ten p.m. program was originally called “Faces and Places” but is now known as “The 10 O’Clock News”. The anchors may have changed over time but the phrase stuck.
Charlotte Morris of the same news channel, did a spotlight program on that news program where she urged parents to keep track of their children. This was the result of a concerned mother from Brooklyn asking for Ms. Morris’s help. Morris went on to interview several parents, of all nationalities, asking them if they knew where their kids where and what they were up to. This segment which may seem obvious and even obnoxious today, was also very popular at that time.
So while those interviews may have stopped, asking that infamous question never did.
This PSA was incredibly popular from than on, during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s - which is why I remember it from my childhood. It was thought to be so effective Time Magazine was named it as one of the top ten public service announcements of all time.
Why it was on Fox News last night however, remains a mystery.
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