Monday, February 18, 2013

Radio & the Presidency

On this President's Day, a brief history lesson of radio's role in the presidency, courtesy of Tom Taylor's NOW...

"Radio and “Silent Cal,” President Coolidge, intersected in radio’s earliest days. Coolidge’s election as vice president was almost incidental to the big news about the November 2, 1920 election of President Warren G. Harding, broadcast by 8XK Pittsburgh. Like most VPs in those days, Coolidge was an afterthought to the top of the ticket. But the thousand or so people who had radio sets that evening heard a broadcast from what 8XK successor KDKA calls “a tiny, makeshift shack atop one of the Westinghouse Electric buildings in East Pittsburgh.” Amazingly, you can hear the results of the first president election carried on U.S. radio on the KDKA site here. Coolidge made history in a more prominent way in 1923, when President Warren G. Harding died and Veep “Silent Cal,” known for being taciturn, delivered the first inaugural speech heard on the radio. At the time, Coolidge was a stranger to virtually the entire population, and the familiarity he built on radio probably helped him win election on his own, in 1924. The U.S. President most closely linked to radio is probably FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His “Fireside Chats” during the Great Depression, beginning in 1933, helped calm the nation. (His “Nothing to fear but fear itself” line, still one of the most famous presidential sayings, came in his 1933 first inaugural, not a fireside chat.) FDR had seen the value of radio earlier, when he appeared on Albany-market WGY as governor of New York State. In the current movie “Hyde Park on Hudson” starring Bill Murray, you can see the network radio engineers setting up for a “fireside chat” from FDR’s country home."