This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Radio Journalism in America: Telling the News in the Golden Age and Beyound
by Jim Cox, ©2013
(From Radio Recall, June 2013)
272 pgs. Softcover, $ 45
800-253-2187 (order line)
Reviewed by Jim Widner
In his introduction to his latest tome, Radio
Journalism in America, author Jim Cox tells a story
about a conversation he had about an earlier book
he had written on the history of passenger trains. A
reader of that book said it was both "refreshing and
intriguing." After questioning the person on what
he meant, the reader explained "while it is a history
book, you make it interesting."
With his latest book published by
McFarland, Cox has taken on quite a task in trying
to pull together a history of how media has created.
altered, and molded the news. His primary focus is
radio, which he unabashedly admits, but besides
focusing on the various networks or "webs" as they
were called in the business, he covers many
individual stations that might have played a part in
the history of broadcast news.
He even begins the journey in Roman times
quickly coming into the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. Though it seems to be quite a task, I
have to say that the author has created a book that
provides an excellent overview of how the media
has impacted journalism as well as how each
medium interacted with the other over its history.
In 1939 Edward R. Murrow said about the news
that his team was "trying to bring you as much
news as we can, avoiding so far as it is humanly
possible, being too much influenced by the
atmosphere in which we work:
In Radio Journalism in America Cox writes
outside of that atmosphere and presents the
elements that shaped news and public affairs.
From the rise of electronic journalism and its
dependence on print news, the author details the
early Press-Radio Wars and the formation of early
network news organizations. He writes about early
coverage of special events, the governmental
influence as to who owns the airwaves, and
censorship of the news.
Broadcast journalism's slow rise to prominence
is detailed: newspapers, which could only deliver its news later in the day, and radio news delivering
"its product to everybody tuning in at the very
same time." Radio was able to bring us all together
at the same time and on the same page and that
provided strong proof of the importance of radio
While the book seems to be heavily CBScentric,
some of that is justified by our knowing that
it was Paley and Murrow and others from the
Columbia Broadcasting System who built the first
major broadcast news organization with a reputation
that continued even to television. He does spend
some time also on Sylvester "Pat" Weaver and his
creation of the NBC Monitor news magazine on
radio in the fifties when radio needed an injection
There is a detailed account of the public
affairs roundtables from the forties and fifties which
were precursors to programs such as Monitor
Cox sees these roundtables as exceptions to
radio news personalities' own biases and the
network opinions expressed even as the
networks claimed to be neutral.
I would recommend Cox's book if you are
looking for an introduction into broadcast
journalism (including the rise of the Internet and
Twitter, among others) with its excellent overview
of the history of media and how news fit into it. If
you are looking for a much deeper study, the book
is well annotated allowing for those who want to
research beyond the author's work.
One of the things, author Cox does well (in all
of his books on media) is offer clear explanations
of various highlights in broadcast journalism's
history. For example, he explains the effect of the
Radio Act of 1927 and the Communication Act of
1934 and their impact ultimately on journalism in
the broadcast medium; something admittedly I was
not clear about.