Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There Was Only Radio … And We Were There.

Whoever referred to TV as “a wasteland” some years back would have to find a stronger descriptor for what’s offered on commercial radio these days. It’s crap.

Radio was quite wonderful once, back in the 40s and 50s. There was drama and comedy and music with brilliant lyrics (think Cole Porter). And newscasts that lasted a full 15 minutes and were delivered by people like Lowell Thomas or Ed Murrow or William L. Shirer … real newsmen who actually knew what they were talking about.

CBS had a program called You Are There in which real reporters interviewed actors playing historical figures during events such as the battle of Waterloo or the completion of the trans-continental railroad or the signing of the Declaration of Independence. At the beginning of the program, which was later produced on televison, Walter Cronkite, who anchored the dramatized coverage, would say:

“July 4th, 1776. What kind of a day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events which alter and illuminate our times. And you are there.”

And we really were there … standing, in our mind’s eye, right behind Charles Collingwood or Douglas Edwards outside the courthouse at Appomattox as he asked General Robert E. Lee to share his thoughts on the day that ended our Civil War.

Today, radio gives us information either in two-minute news dribbles read by disk jockeys or in three-hour rants by right-wing blowhards. And “wasteland” doesn’t begin to describe it.

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