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November 2010
 Tuesday, November 30, 2010 Join Discussion  (16 Comments)
British Library Sound Archive Ceases Publication of PLAYBACK

Today's mail brought the latest edition of Playback, the semi-annual, glossy, short-but-always-interesting newsletter of the amazing British Library Sound Archive.

Playback is a nice, highly digestible and usually tantalizing look at recent acquisitions of sound, profiles of producers who use vintage sound, and previews of upcoming commercial releases of materials from the library's enormous collection (you may search the catalog here).

This issue also includes the sad (but I suppose inevitable) news that, after this last printed edition (Autumn 2010, Number 44), Playback is no more. Like everyone else nowadays, even the British Library is moving its external communications completely online.

Though it's not the same as getting an envelope from London in the mailbox a few times a year, a complete online archive of back issues of Playback is already available here, and anyone can sign up for the new Playback email updates by sending an email to:

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, November 23, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
History of Late Night TV in The New Yorker

In a New Yorker piece that functions as a far-ranging review of sorts of two new books (Bill Carter's The War for Late Night and Dick Cavett's Talk Show), critic-at-large Louis Menand weaves a fairly interesting, easily digestible history of American late night TV talk shows from the 1950s to the 1970s.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, November 23, 2010 Join Discussion  (602 Comments)
JFK Assassination Media Coverage

The 47th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy passed mostly unnoticed by the national media on Monday. But I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, given that the even-decade anniversaries for distant events tend to be the years that get the full work-up, with snazzy motion graphics packages, catchy titles ("[INSERT EVENT HERE]: A Half-Century Later"), and so on.

And while books about the JFK assassination (and the odd conspiracy theory or two-thousand) were a publishing industry unto themselves for the first 40 years or so after that violent day in Dallas, most only give cursory treatment to history of the media coverage. A notable exception is When The News Went Live: Dallas 1963 by Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, George Phenix and Wes Wise (published in 2004 by Taylor Trade).

The four men all worked for Dallas CBS affiliate KRLD, and each was nearby or on hand for critical episodes in the city on November 22, 1963. In addition to stories of their personal experiences, they consider the network TV coverage of the assassination, including Walter Cronkite's famous, emotional announcement of Kennedy's death.

Among the gems: the little-known fact that first word of shots being fired at the motorcade were announced by Cronkite on CBS TV with only a "CBS NEWS BULLETIN" slide and no image of Cronkite. Cronkite is only heard and not seen--not out of propriety for the wounded Commander-in-Chief, but because in those days, it took awhile for the newsroom TV camera to warm up and Cronkite and CBS rightfully didn't want to wait.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Sunday, November 14, 2010 Join Discussion  (4 Comments)
Coleman Jacoby: Another TV Veteran (with Radio Roots) Passes Away

Coleman Jacoby, writer for Jackie Gleason and many other greats from the Golden Age of Television, has passed away at 95. The New York Times on Friday, November 12 published Mr. Jacoby's obituary, which details his prolific career.

Prior to writing for television, Mr. Jacoby wrote radio material for Fred Allen, Bob Hope and Robert Q. Lewis.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Friday, November 12, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Voice of the Seattle Mariners Silenced

The power of broadcasting to knit together a community, along with a profound sense of loss for a beloved broadcaster, have been nothing short of palpable in Seattle the past few days. Dave Niehaus, radio and TV voice of the Mariners for all of their 34 seasons, died suddenly Wednesday of a heart attack.

Niehaus, 75, died at his home in nearby Bellevue, WA. He was inducted in July 2008 to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and is, so far, the only member of the Seattle Mariners so honored. The SEATTLE CHANNEL and Tony Ventrella produced a short profile of Niehaus that summer that can be watched here.

Local radio went wall-to-wall just after 5pm Wednesday night, with Seattle's two sports stations (KIRO 710 AM and KJR 950 AM) devoting hours to listener call-ins and phone interviews with Dave's colleagues and many admirers. Even non-sports news/talk radio spent most of Wednesday night and Thursday during the day mourning on-air for Niehaus. It was impossible to keep a tally of the number of broadcasters who choked back tears at least once on-air in the 24 hours following Niehaus' death.

On Saturday, November 13 at 12:00 noon Pacific Standard Time, KIRO 97.3 FM and KIRO 710 AM will pay tribute to Niehaus by broadcasting a complete recording (sans commercials) of what many consider the most memorable game played by the Mariners and the most memorable game called by Niehaus: Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series vs. the New York Yankees.

As Dave would probably have said, "My, Oh, My!"

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, November 09, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Pulling Back the Curtain on NPR News

Though it may be, as they say, a little too "Inside Baseball" for some, NPR's On The Media this past week replayed the excellent 2004 story called Pulling Back the Curtain.

The story was played as a tribute to its producer/reporter John Solomon, who recently passed away. Solomon went behind the scenes to reveal how much editing takes place in the typical NPR interview with a newsmaker for Morning Edition or All Things Considered (even when an interview sounds as if it is actually being presented live, it usually is at least several minutes old), and how much "clean-up" is done to audio cuts incorporated into feature stories heard on NPR. He also tried to gauge what, if any impact, these practices have on the listeners--who are mostly unaware of them.

It's a fascinating look into contemporary radio journalism and radio production in the digital era that On The Media is wise to replay at regular intervals. Hopefully, they'll also produce a follow-up story some day as well.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, November 02, 2010 Join Discussion  (1 Comments)
90th Anniversary of KDKA Election Coverage

Industry website RadioInk today ran a feature about the 90th anniversary of election night coverage on Pittsburgh radio station KDKA.

In that election, Republican Warren G. Harding defeated Democrat and fellow Ohioan (and fellow newspaperman) James M. Cox. Many people forget now that Cox's running mate, who would go on to make pretty good use of radio himself as a campaign tool and domestic agenda promotion device, was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

KDKA, now an all-news station owned by CBS, presented a special anniversary broadcast Tuesday morning from the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Audio of that broadcast is available here.

It wasn't too many years ago that KDKA was widely believed to be the country's first radio station, which was a bit of an oversimplification. Broadcast history (and history in general) has evolved, and the obsession with "firsts" seems to have subsided. Meanwhile, there's growing appreciation for more complex and subtle narratives, such as Ken Burns' film (based on the Tom Lewis book), Empire of the Air.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Monday, November 01, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Lamont Johnson, Directed 78 LIVE Episodes of Matinee Theater

NBC's Pat Weaver was a prolific creator of at least two archetypal television programs that remain on the air (and that have been joined by countless impersonators over the years): Today, and Tonight.

Weaver also created a daytime live drama anthology program called Matinee Theater which is no longer on the air (and hasn't been since 1958).

One of the directors of that program, Lamont Johnson, just passed away at age 88. According to his New York Times obituary:

"In 1955, Mr. Johnson, who had acted on stage and television for a decade, turned to directing. His first assignment: piece together a one-hour adaptation of 'Wuthering Heights' for NBC’s noontime 'Matinee Theater' in just four days. It was the first of 78 live productions Mr. Johnson would direct for 'Matinee Theater' in a little more than two years."

This kind of rapid turn-around is easy to understand in the world of radio drama (where actors didn't have to memorize scripts and didn't have to learn any stage blocking in order to perform in multiple programs all in the same day). Perhaps the unrealistic grind (and the introduction of videotape) is why live TV drama didn't last much beyond the 1950s, notwithstanding the occasional novelty episode of ER.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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