Manipulating the Ether: The Power of Broadcast Radio in Thirties America

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Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first politician to recognize the power of radio. He appealed directly to the American people for support of his policies. His addresses were broadcast over networks only recently equipped with newsrooms. Listeners learned immediately of events they earlier would not have heard about for days and commentators began to interpret the news, sometimes of course, slanting it. But it fell to a young star to demonstrate the full power of the medium: On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles' War of...
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Overview

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first politician to recognize the power of radio. He appealed directly to the American people for support of his policies. His addresses were broadcast over networks only recently equipped with newsrooms. Listeners learned immediately of events they earlier would not have heard about for days and commentators began to interpret the news, sometimes of course, slanting it. But it fell to a young star to demonstrate the full power of the medium: On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast brought widespread panic with its fictional report of an alien invasion. How Roosevelt used radio, how the news was reported, and the changes Welles and his "news"-cast caused are all detailed.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Investigates the roots of modern broadcasting while contextualizing three phenomena: FDR's use of the airwaves, the rise of the network newscasters, and the panic of the American public in the face of Orson Welles's 1938 broadcast. The author shows how these phenomena are part of a much larger trend in American culture<-- >a trend that continues today in television broadcasting. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786403974
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 324

Meet the Author

Robert J. Brown lives in Rochester, New York.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Introduction 1
Radio and Thirties America 1
Part I The "Radio President" 7
1 Roosevelt and Radio 9
Roosevelt's Views on Radio 9
Roosevelt's Special Relationship with Radio 14
The Roosevelt Method 15
2 Campaigning by Radio 25
Roosevelt's Early Political Career and Governorship 28
The 1932 Campaign 29
The 1936 Campaign 32
Imitating the Master 37
The 1940 Campaign 39
The 1944 Campaign 45
3 Selling the Domestic Agenda 57
The Voice of Confidence 57
Roosevelt's First Inaugural 61
The Banking Crisis 63
Evaluating the First Two Months of the New Deal: The Fireside Chat of May 7, 1933 65
The Record of the First "Hundred Days": July 24, 1933, and October 22, 1933 67
Fending Off Attack: June 28, 1934 68
Fireside Chats of April 28, 1935, October 12, 1937, and April 14, 1938 69
Domestic Success 71
4 Domestic Challenges 75
The Plan to Pack the Supreme Court 75
Purging the Democratic Party 79
Huey Long 82
Father Coughlin 84
5 Selling the Foreign Policy Agenda 89
Cash-and-Carry 91
"The Development of Our Defense Program" 92
Lend-Lease 96
Unlimited National Emergency 100
The Greer Incident 102
Struggle with the Isolationists 107
War with Japan 116
Foreign Policy Success 120
6 The Death of FDR 123
Part II "We Take You Now To..." 129
7 Early History of Broadcast News 131
Radio News Is Born 132
The "Crime of the Century" 133
The Press-Radio War 136
8 Radio Covers Domestic Events and Crises 139
Natural Disaster 139
The Hindenburg Explosion 141
Explorer and Squalus 144
Covering the 1940 Campaign 145
Radio Discussion Programs 148
"Time Marches On" 150
9 Radio Covers the World 153
Early Foreign News Reporting 153
"Ten Days That Shook the Ether" 154
Anschluss 158
Munich Crisis 160
Closer to the Brink 173
The Polish Crisis 175
The Phoney War 180
France's Agony 182
Britain Under Siege 185
A World at War 189
Conclusion 192
Part III "Incredible As It May Seem..." 195
10 Orson Welles and the "War of the Worlds" 197
Precedents 197
Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater 201
Preparation for War of the Worlds 204
11 The Broadcast 207
12 The Public Reaction 219
Panic in the Streets 219
Popular Gullibility? 222
The Welles Plan 224
13 "It Was All So Real" 229
Manipulation 229
Historical Environment 233
Wonders of Science 236
Tuning in Late 237
14 Aftermath 241
Censorship 241
CBS Responds 243
Self-Regulation 244
Lessons 246
The State of American Preparedness 248
The Credibility Gap 250
The Legacy 251
15 Conclusion 255
Notes 257
Bibliography 287
Selected Radio Broadcasts 295
Index 303
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