Technology in Practice: Radio

News Coverage on Radio and in Newspapers

By: Nyan Hartman

The advent of consumer radio technology was the catalyst for a substantial cultural change in America. Prior to its creation in the early 1900s, information came primarily through print; both in the form of books and newspapers. The most important effect was the increased connectivity of the population.The invention of the radio allowed for a much more quick and efficient newsmaking process. In turn, this created a society where the majority of the population  could become informed about current events. Both of these technologies rely on many of the same resources, but radio can use the same resources much more efficiently than print.

Radio’s ability to transmit live has been used to great effect in the news process. Live coverage is perhaps the greatest advantage that radio journalism has over print. For newspapers, the “breaking news” process takes over 24 hours to reach consumers (Gugliotta, How Radio Changed Everything). Compared to radio, where information can be spread immediately. Attempts have been made by the newspaper industry to circumvent this, such as in 1948 when Chicago Tribune had incorrectly announced that Dewey had defeated Truman in the presidential election. While these kinds of errors are also possible with radio news, it is much less substantial. Corrections can be made on the air and it is much less costly for errors to be made.

The case with the Chicago Tribune may not really showcase it, but print media’s slower news process allows them to be more deliberate and detailed in their coverage. Much more information can be given in a newspaper than in a radio broadcast. This is consistent with the idea that newspapers are targeted at a more sophisticated demographic. In the 1930s when radio technology began to reach the masses the Great Depression was in full swing. Even though it was an expensive purchase, many families bought a radio. People thought it was worthwhile because in addition to news access, there was also the entertainment value. This was the creation of the first “mass media”. It also led newspapers into more niche markets in attempt to find profit, and with most families owning a radio it became more profitable for newspapers to target more upscale households who could afford to purchase them (Stephen, Pg. 2).

Another aspect to the radio is the increased “connection” to the news. Political speeches for example, rather than being transcribed and analyzed by a journalist, would instead be recorded and transmitted nationwide. During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” provided comfort to the nation that would not be possible with print. Both in the fatherly nature of the talks and the underlying patriotism of the messages. A newspaper reporting on these speeches would provide a second-hand account of the talk and the surrounding atmosphere. But radio listeners can hear the President’s speech for themselves and draw their own conclusions about it.

In its essence, radio technology provides increased speed and personal connection to the news process at the expense of in-depth analysis. While the loss of detail may be negative, many stories in the news are best left for the individual to think about for themselves and draw their own conclusions.


Guy Gugliotta|Thursday, May 31, 2007. “November 2016.” Discover Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Lacy, Stephen. “The Effect of Growth of Radio on Newspaper Competition, 1929-1948.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 64.4 (1987): 775-81. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Smith, Stephen. “Radio: The Internet of the 1930s | American RadioWorks.”Radio: The Internet of the 1930s. American Radioworks, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2016. Staff. “The Fireside Chats.” A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s