Radio, the nation, and the rise of the voice in broadcasting, in a clearly written, significant history of the birth of the first mass medium
Emergency Broadcasting and 1930s American Radio
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Edward D. Miller
The voice we hear on the radiothe voice with no body attachedis a key element in the history of media in the twentieth century. Before television and the internet, there was radio; and much of what defined the makeup of these newer media was influenced by the way radio was broadcast to people and the way people listened to it.
Emergency Broadcasting focuses on key moments in the history of early radio in order to come to an understanding of the role voice played in radio to describe national crises, a fictional invasion from outer space, and general entertainment. Taking the Hindenburg disaster, The War of the Worlds hoax, Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chats, and the serial mystery The Shadow as his focal points, Edward Miller illustrates how the radio, for the first time, instantly communicated to a mass audience, and how that communicationwhere the voice counts more than the imageis still at work today in television and the World Wide Web.
Theoretically sophisticated, yet grounded in historical detail, Emergency Broadcasting offers a unique examination of radio and at the same time develops a complex understanding of the media whose birth is owed to the innovationsand disembodied powerestablished by it.
"Miller's book is a wholly original contribution to the study of both early American and contemporary radio. Perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to integrate theory with historical evidence. Miller's reading of both the "War of the Worlds" and FDR's Fireside Chats as being inflected by the radio reporting of the Hindenberg disaster is as unique as it is valuable. Emergency Broadcasting belongs alongside other significant radio books such as Noise Water Meat and Wireless Imagination."
"Miller adds a theoretical context with which to assess these programs, and he effectively ties his findings to radio (and Internet) content available today. His approach is surely timely for he is really exploring how radio dealt (and deals) with real or imagined threats to national security."
Read "With Some Frequency," a review from The New Yorker, 14 April 2003, written by Mark Rozzo (pdf).