AM Radio “Transporting You To Someplace Else” Coming To An End


Hat Tip To Marion.

There is no shortage of nostalgic blog posts on CP about radio.  My attachment to this medium is clear.  From being a kid and keeping a log of all the stations I could pick up back home in Hancock, to working as a broadcaster for several years at WDOR in Sturgeon Bay, radio  has been a friend.

But things are changing.  And as I have noted before on this blog, not for the better when it comes to this most intimate of mediums.  (Far more intimate than television.)

Now comes an article about radio and the broadcasting choices that we have that was so on target that it ends up posted on CP.

“It’s sad that AM radio is almost dead,” Michael Socolow says, partway into a discussion of the evolution of radio broadcasting in the United States.

“Here in Bangor, Maine, you can occasionally still pull in WJR in Detroit, WTOP in Washington,” he says. “Just by doing that, you can get a sense of what it was like in the 1920s, the sense of radio transporting you to someplace else.”

For more than two decades, until the emergence of television, the radio was a central fixture in almost every American home. Families gathered around vacuum tube radios to hear news covered up to the minute, including the all-important presidential addresses to the nation, and entertainment by such household names as Amos ’n’ Andy, Jack Benny and Fred Allen — the Letterman of his day.

Most radios still have AM dials and it’s possible to hear the nostalgic hissing and almost musical signal modulation that comes with tuning in stations. However, the original practicality and necessity of broadcasting using amplitude modulation are things of the past.

For Socolow, a leading American radio historian, the loss is not just indicative of technological evolution. The historical perspective of radio puts in context today’s discussions about tomorrow’s media choices.

“Historical patterns indicate our media choices will be limited by the economy, by technology or by regulation, but it will be sold to you — the consumer — as less quantity and better quality,” says Socolow, an associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine, whose research focuses on the development of the nation’s radio networks — the competition, the politics and the profitability from the 1920s through the 1940s. Radio’s heyday.

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