Journalism is an activity that we primarily associate with newspapers, magazines and television. Indeed, among the many who turn to sound broadcasting as a source of background music, few may be aware that radio journalism exists. On radio, the drafting and delivery of news copy is not a simple matter. Like television’s, but unlike those of the newspapers, its words are constantly dissolving but unlike television’s, they are wholly invisible, as are the people who utter them. Consequently, its listeners seldom give radio their undivided attention. Its news copy needs to be written and presented with these factors constantly in mind Among the early pioneers were Guglielmo Marconi, who first demonstrated transmission and reception but was slow to spot radio’s potential as a mass medium, and Reginald Fessenden, who in 1906 broadcast the first programme of voice and music, but who failed to capitalise on his idea, so is merely a footnote in the history of broadcasting.
The power of radio as a means of entertainment and propaganda was swiftly demonstrated, yet it did not immediately produce radio journalism. In compiling his first programme, Fessenden omitted all news, even though the concept of news reporting was well established in the press. He played recordings of music and read a passage from the Bible, but had he thought of it he could have included the world’s first news bulletin and quite legitimately led on the historic significance of his own actions.
The distinctiveness of radio journalism
Just as print journalism is more than the front and back pages and includes reviews, in-depth analyses and comment, which also solicit the attention of the reader, so radio journalism is much more than ‘the news’. It is to be found in factual output of many kinds: in programming as much as in bulletins. It is also expensive to produce, requiring more effort to source and to evidence, to illustrate and to communicate, than does the playing of…