Broadcast News had its shaky beginnings in the days of dot and dash Morse code transmissions. Wired telegraphy had been used to send news of the day, and the practice continued after Guglielmo Marconi developed his "telegraph without wires".
As early as 1898 the technology was used to transmit the results of the Kingston Regatta to the Dublin Daily Express, as well as interested bystanders in the newspaper's office. The value of news coming out of the ether was fully demonstrated in 1912 when the future head of RCA and NBC David Sarnoff remained awake by his wireless set until the last name of the victims from the "unsinkable" Titanic were tapped out from the S.S. Olympic.
The first commercial radio station, eventually known as KDKA, Pittsburgh, received its license on Oct 27, 1920. On Nov 2, arrangements were made for the Presidential Election results in the Harding-Cox race to be broadcast from a tiny shack on the roof of a Westinghouse Electric building. Nearly a thousand people got the results over their radio sets.
Although the age of Commercial Radio had begun, radio during the twenties was mostly a hobby-based affair, for some years there were more homemade receivers than "store-bought." As quickly as manufacturers began putting radio sets on the market, new broadcasters came on the air, both markets supporting each other.
In 1931, Roy Edward Larsen, general of TIME Magazine, was responsible for the launch of The March of Time. The program format was loosely based on the Newsreels, and not only featured a narrator reading the news, and professional actors were hired to play the parts of people in the news. This was effective enough that in the latter part of the decade, people thought they were actually hearing the voices of people like Adolf Hitler, King Edward VIII, or Bruno Hauptman.
At first, The March of Time broadcasts were given away in exchange for advertising the magazine. TIME actually tried to pull the plug on the program a few times because of production expenses. Whenever they did, listeners would write in, begging for the show, especially as the clouds of War developed over Europe.
The European War would give rise to the “Just the Facts” style of the Correspondent/Reporter. The pioneer of the Correspondent/Reporters was a young man named Edward R. Murrow.
Murrow was born in Polecat Creek, NC, but the family soon homesteaded in Washington State. He earned his college money working in the rugged timber industry. Although there was no such thing as an International Correspondent, Murrow's education was exactly what one would need.
When Murrow joined CBS in 1935 as "director of talks and education", announcer Bob Trout and former United Press correspondent Paul White were the entire network news department. Murrow's early role was to line up interesting people to be interviewed on the air, while Trout gave him pointers on his radio communication skills.
With Fascism on the rise, White sent Murrow to England to head up CBS's fledgling European division. The job was not supposed to involve on-air reporting, but events on the Continent soon changed that.
The Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Westinghouse, and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T, "Ma Bell") combined in 1926 to form the National Broadcasting Company, NBC. Westinghouse owned Newark, New Jersey station WJZ which was combined with AT&T's WEAF New York. WEAF was created as a laboratory for AT&T to develop broadcasting equipment, which the company soon lost interest; however, having the phone company on board meant that NBC had access to its lines to send its content to other stations.
The primary reason for getting into the broadcasting game was to help RCA and Westinghouse to sell more radio receiver sets to consumers. The RCA executive who wound up calling the shots at NBC, David Sarnoff, initially saw the network as an information service but was soon won over by the profitability of concentrating on entertainment broadcasting.
Although announcer Graham McNamee would set up remote broadcasts from the two Party Political Conventions and the Presidential Inauguration, most NBC News coverage in the early years was a network announcer reading copy from the Associated Press wire during periods of "dead air".
The FCC formally ordered NBC divided into the Red and Blue networks in 1927. Corporate legend holds that the separate networks were named for the colored yarn connected to thumbtacks on a map in the network headquarters. The Red Network generally carried the more profitable and popular programs while Blue was home to more sustained broadcasts like news and public service programming.
One problem holding back the popularity of radio news was the general policy of not broadcasting pre-recorded material. This meant that interviews had to be done in the studio or via remote broadcast, and at a time specified by the broadcaster. The prohibition was temporarily lifted after Blue Network affiliate WLS Chicago sent Herbert Morrison to Lakehurst, New Jersey, to cover the arrival of the Hindenburg airship, resulting in one of the most dramatic recordings in the history of broadcasting with Morrison wailing, "Oh, the humanity!"
By assigning Murrow to Europe when they did, CBS gave American listeners a front-row seat to the descent into a new World War. One of Murrow's first moves upon crossing the Pond was to organize "the Murrow Boys", a group of trusted and well-informed journalists, many of whom were in Europe to work for the United Press. The Murrow Boys, for the most part, had no broadcast experience but were familiar with European politics and could tell a good story.
Among the first of the Murrow Boys were Eric Sevareid, William Shirer, Larry LeSueur, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, and Bill Downs. In March of 1938, Murrow was in Poland arranging radio appearances by children's choirs when Shirer sent word to his boss that Germany was annexing Austria. Although he was an eyewitness to the Anschluss, Shirer was unable to get his reports out of Austria because of Nazi censors. Murrow arranged for Shirer to go to London to broadcast his report and then flew to Vienna to take over for Shirer.
The Murrow Boys brought the "European Crisis" to American listeners. Murrow, who finally began on-air reporting, opened his broadcasts during the Blitz with: "Hello America. This is London calling". When aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed the American Fleet at its base in Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i, most of the nation received their first news of the attack from the radio or from someone who had heard about it on the radio.
Historians will note that the broadcasts of December 7, 1941, have been preserved. When compared to modern cable news coverage of a major event, the information provided by the networks is scant, and, seen from a historical perspective, often inaccurate. However, given the limitations of communications technology of the time, the inaccuracies are forgivable.
From Roosevelt's "Infamy" speech forward, Radio provided the folks on the Home front the closest thing they could get to a front-row seat on the War. Print media was usually able to provide more details about the action, but radio was able to report on advances as well as setbacks within hours of their occurrence.
A good deal of the information which came over the air came from the wire services. Reporters were stationed on or near the front lines as uniformed non-combatants. They were not allowed to carry sidearms or operate any weapons, but their proximity to the fighting put them in direct danger, and those captured often faced execution.
Reporters had access to the generals running the campaigns, but more relevant stories came from the soldiers and officers on the front line. A reporter might hitch a ride from a unit going towards the fighting and spend the trip furiously taking notes on their conversations. Murrow talked his way onto several bomber missions over enemy lines.
One of the things that delayed radio news from the front was strict censorship. Although there may have been setbacks that the brass did not want to be publicized, for the most part, censorship was in place to prevent news reports from giving aid to the enemy in the form of tactics or troop movement. Reporters were required to pledge that all their material would be cleared before broadcast, and the journalists would be subject to military discipline if they broke the rules, although the few times it happened the offending reporters were usually sent home.
Censorship became especially tight during the period just before Operation Overlord, the D-Day Allied Invasion of Europe over the beaches of Normandy. Once the Operation kicked off on June 6, 1944, it was covered in detail by CBS and NBC Radio.
The Post War Economic Boom was accompanied by the opening salvos of what would become the Cold War. Sponsors and the Networks began abandoning the Radio for the shiny new technology of Television. TV quickly became the dominant force in entertainment, although those who took the News seriously remained loyal to Radio.
The slow adoption of TV News may be due to the fact that, in the early days, News on the small screen had little to offer over Radio. The 'Talking Head' format was just that; a reporter reading the news in an otherwise empty studio (often with a curl of cigarette smoke rising next to the anchorman). Listening to the news on the Radio was less distracting and therefore more informative.
As technology improved, the visual element of TV coverage began to be more important. This became apparent during the 1960 Presidential Debates; Radio listeners were convinced that Nixon won the debate while those who saw the young, good-looking Democrat mostly credited Kennedy with the win.
TV newscasting began to take over from Radio with the assassination of President Kennedy. Although most people initially heard about the events in Dallas over the Radio, the visual images of Jackie bravely dealing with her husband's sudden death and the President's coffin arriving in Washington gained the nation's attention and sympathy in ways that Radio could never compete with.
Although the immediacy TV images quickly gained ground on Radio, news analysis and commentary remained the main selling point of radio news. This eventually led to the rise of talk radio. At present, Print, Radio, and TV News are taking a backseat to Internet-based news sources.
|Show Title||Dates||News Type||Show Premise|
|ABC News (Orson Welles Commentary)||1946||News Commetary||Orson Welles was radio's "bad boy" and he told it as he saw it on ABV|
|Alistair Cooke Recordings||1945-1956||News Commetary||British born Alistair Cooke had a unique perspective on American life and culture|
|America First Committee Broadcasts||1940-1941||Major Event/Scandal||The America First Committee was dedicated to keep America out of Foriegn Wars, right up to the Attack on Pearl Harbor|
|America Looks Abroad||1939-1940||War Reports||NBC and the Foriegn Ploicy Association looked at the growing danger from Europe|
|Bob Elson On the Twentieth Century Limited||1946-1950(?)||Life in America||The 20th Century Limited ran the rails from coast to coast and Bob Elson net the train in Chicago to interview celebrities making the trip|
|CBS European News Am Edition||1939-1940||Correspondent||While America tried to stay out of the War in Europe,the CBS News team kept the audience at home informed|
|CBS News Around the World (AM Edition)||1938-1942||War Reports||As America joined the fray in Europe, folks on the homefront wee kept up to dat by reports from Ed Murrow and his Boys|
|CBS World News Today||1941-1945||War Reports||Ed Murrow and his CBS gang were the first to bring the War in Europe to American listeners|
|Christmas Time News Reports in Old Time Radio||1943-1963||Life in America||The gy in the Red Suit makes his rounds every year, but what is happening in the real world is still important|
|Complete Broadcast 1939||September 21, 1939||Live History||A full day's broadcast from WJSV just after Hitler's forces invaded Poland, starting WWII|
|Complete Broadcast 1941 (Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor)||December 7, 1941||Live History||The Date that Lives in Infamy as it was heard on the Radio|
|Complete Broadcast 1944 (D-Day Invasion of Normandy) CBS Coverage||June 6, 1944||Live History||CBS covers the Allied Invasion of Europe|
|Complete Broadcast 1944 (D-Day Invasion of Normandy) NBC Coverage||June 6, 1944||Live History||NBC takes its listeners along as the Allies cross the beaches at Normandy|
|Edward R Murrow Radio Recordings & News: I Can Hear It Now||1939-1961||Correspondent||A generation of Americans' view of the World wer shaped by reports from Ed Murrow|
|Election Collection||1932-1953||Live History||The right to vote is basic to Democracy, and elections are the embodiment ofFreedom in Action|
|Elmer Davis and the News||1939-1952||Correspondent||Longtime newsman Elmer Davis was tapped by FDR to head the Office of War Information|
|Frank Singiser News Announcer||1943-1944||Correspondent||Journalist Frank Singiser's show was sponsored by the Associated Press, and he would be a panelist for the Kenedy-Nixon debates|
|Gabriel Heatter||1940-1948||Correspondent||An optimist even in the face of War, Gabriel Heater openned his broadcasts promising "Good News"|
|Hollywood Byline||1949-1950||Life in America||Popular screen stars appeared before a panel of reporters to expose their true characters|
|The Home Front Featuring William B. Williams||1994||War Reports||Most WWII stories came from the Front Lines, this series took a look at hpw the battles were fought at home|
|HV Kaltenborn Edits the News||1939-1947||News Commetary||Well known for his wide knowledge of world afairs, diction, and ability to ad-lib, H.V. Kaltenborn was on the air for more than three decades|
|Keys to the Capitol||1954||News Commetary||NBC News panel analyzes what is happening in Cold War era Washington DC|
|Lowell Thomas||1944-1954||Correspondent||One of the poneers of Adventure Reporting, Lowell Thomas brought Lawrence of Arabia to the public eye|
|Mary Margaret McBride||1841-1957||Correspondent||Ms. McBride was a pioneering celebrity interviewer who set the pattern forOprah, Mike Wallace, Terry Gross, and others|
|Meet the Press||1958-1962||News Commetary||People who made the news have been invited to be interviewd by a panel of reporters fir several decades|
|Monitor also known as Monitor Beacon||1955-1975||Life in America||NBC Monitor had a broadcast magazine format that covered news, sports, comdy, music, and interviews of popular personalities|
|The NBC National Hour||1945-1946||News Commetary||The world was changing incredibly fast after the War, and the NBC National Hour helped to make sense of the changes|
|News Recordings||Various||Major Event/Scandal||Major events reported on a yearly basis from 1938 through the 1970s|
|Pearl Harbor News Recordings||December 7,1941||Live History||The Date That Lives In Infamy is well remembered on Old Time radio|
|Rare News and Current Event Shows||1939-1959||Live History||Rare News Broadcasts are an mprotant source of Historical Information|
|Raymond Gram Swing News Broadcasts||1938-1945||News Commetary||Mr. Swing is notable for being one of the first American commentators to recpgnize and publicize the dangers of Hitlerism|
|Remembering Pearl Harbor||December 7,1941||Live History||An imprtant view f history can be gained by listening to the perspectives of those who lived through it|
|Robert Arden News Commentary||1940-1942||News Commetary||Newspaperman Robert Arden's commentary helped to explain World Events to an American audience and how thiey affect our country|
|The Story Behind the Headlines||1938-1947||News Commetary||In cooperation with the American Historical Association, Cesar Saerchinger for NBC reported not just the stories, but what they meant|
|Summer of 1940 News||1940||War Reports||Europe was at War and Great Britain stood alone against Fascism. Larry LaSueur kept US audiences informed|
|Today in Europe||1939-1940||War Reports||While War Clouds gathered over Europe, the 'Murrow Boys' kept America informed about what was going on|
|Victory in Europe Day Radio Recordings||May 8, 1945||War Reports||Two days after Hitler commited suicide, the Nazi's surrendered|
|War Telescope||1943-1944||War Reports||Veteran reporter Elmer Peterson sent reports on the War from London|
|Watergate Scandal News||1971-1974||Major Event/Scandal||Watergate not only brought down a President, it shattered America's confidence in Government|
|William L. Shirer Collection||1938-1950||Correspondent||William Shirer was one of the original 'Murrow Boys' in Europe before WWII|
|Your Home Front Reporter||1943||Life in America||Owens-Illinois Glass used this show to inform housewives of how to support the War Effort|