Wednesday, March 21, 2018

1920 The New Voice of Radio News

We all know radio is dead. Just ask any pundit. But don’t lose hope.  There’s a semi-happy ending.

After the autopsy, it was determined that, among other things, radio died from cancer of the news department.  

There were other factors, too. For example, overdosing on stupid, misleading and criminally negligent commercials.  Playing vocal music by rejects from American Idol auditions and other random screaming, squealing, mumbling and bad rhymes, and radiation interference from cell towers and power lines.

But be of good cheer! Radio news lives in the world of the internet.  And in some ways it is superior and easier to digest. 

Newspapers and websites have discovered “the briefing.”  Every morning you get a summary of Big Things in your email.  They’re written in conversational style and even have links to “full stories” if you want to read 5,000 words about how cops perjure themselves in court or how Putin disposed of his reelection opponents or the best cruises to nowhere and a dandy recipe for hot and spicy mac and cheese.

These briefings keep you at least semi informed.  And when you quote them at the watercooler, you look smart to your coworkers.

Radio networks -- real ones -- have either gone away or are wearing audio costumes that make them sound like news.  NBC Radio: gone. CBS Radio: Murrow is whirling in his grave. ABC Radio: a tree with many branches and no trunk.  Fox Radio? C’mon! And NPR? Zzzzzzz.

Radio news was long past its prime when it served as a major source of information. But it still served a function: Turn on the morning news (all three minutes and 30 seconds of it) and you know that WWIII hadn’t broken out. Or that it had.

The new voice of radio news is on the internet but you can’t hear it, you have to read it.

All the big papers have “briefings.” Some have many. The New York Times, for example has six or seven of them with different emphases. You can pick your field of interest and ignore the rest.

The Boston Globe’s are fewer and more locally focused, but they’re generally faster than anyone else’s.  USA Today has a zillion different newsletters, each nice and succinct. And the Associated Press mobile app is a rolling wire service updated every two seconds and easy to read. Much easier than its new general news website which is a dog.

All of them share one characteristic:  They’re conversational and give you the gist of what you might want to know, even if you don’t know that you want to know it.

It’s unlikely any newspaper has hired radio types to write and produce these gabby little features.  And few have figured out how to make a buck with these things, though some… like Axios and Vice sell advertorials (clearly marked) as does Business Insider (champion product pusher and none too careful about how it labels paid content.)

“trump is Nixon on Steroids and stilts.” -- John Dean to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on comparing the past and present coverups.

“The rocks in their heads fit the holes in his.” -- NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman on trump’s economic advisers.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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