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Radio: from print to the airwaves

Posted by: | September 18, 2012 | No Comment |

-Helena Okolicsanyi

When the first broadcast of news hit the airwaves through the radio in 1920, something significant was happening. For the first time, news was brought directly to the home. No loner did you have to wait for the next day’s newspaper to learn about the world, all you had to do was simply turn your dial.

However, with every new technology, journalists have to adapt. In Mitchel Stephen’s book A History of News, radio journalists were adopted from newspapers. However, as noted in Stephen’s book, “speaking to an audience of news hearers, rather than newsreaders” required some journalistic modifications.

Unlike with newspaper writing, in radio you cannot reread something that is confusing. Instead, sentences and words have to be more concise and you have to be able to hold an audiences’ attention. So was the case with noted journalist Edward R. Murrow.

Photo courtesy of the Bob Edwards show

Edward R. Murrow, unlike his counterparts, did not start out in newspapers. He came straight to radio where his reports of World War II were broadcast, bringing his audience straight to the front lines. Below is Murrow’s radio report from the London Blitz during World War II. This was part of a string of radio reports that Murrow did.

Edward R. Murrow was one of the first radio journalists who actually took the microphone into the streets to give the listener the feel and sounds of what was occurring. Unlike newspapers and print, you can actually feel as though you are at the scene, something not possible with print. Unlike with print, radio tells a story.

Former NPR producer Jonathan Kern’s book, “Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production” sites that one of the skills that is unique to the medium of radio is listening or, “reporting with your ears. The right sound–the whine of an air raid siren in wartime…can substitute for dozens or hundreds of words, and can be as descriptive and evocative as a photograph.”

Now news organizations such as the British Broadcast Company’s Radio and National Public Radio are pioneering what it means to be in radio and being a journalist. Kern’s notes that while newspapers went into decline and the advent of cable took away some TV audiences, radio has always been present.

In the last decade or so, the Internet has emerged as a popular source of news, especially for younger people, accelerating the decline in newspaper subscriptions. But even as newspapers lost readers to the Internet, public radio’s audience actually grew–from 14.6 million weekly listeners in 2000 to 23 million in 2006. These days “radio” has less to do with a specific kind of receiver or a means of sending signals from a transmitter than with a way of communicating news and information through words and sound (Kerns, 3)

What Kern points out is true. While the internet and new technology continues to grow, radio has continued to adapt. When iPods and other mp3 devices came out, NPR and BBC began producing podcasts for free. Now, even if you aren’t connected to a radio anymore you can download the program and listen to it in your own time. Or, you can even stream live broadcasts.

Organizations such as NPR continue to expand their reach with a growing number of listeners online everyday. Reports such as this one from NPR in 2011 in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 revolution against Hosni Mubarak in November 2011 when protesters took to the streets. Reports such as this one from by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Tahir Square, bring you directly into the story.

Photo courtesy of NPR.org


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