Monday, September 25, 2006

Radio The 5th Estate

Judith Waller was called Chicago's “First Lady of Radio” You've probably neer heard of her, but she was one of the innovators that combined educational programming and broadcasting. She believed that the new medium should offer more that entertainment. You can also put an asterisk on this as the root idea behind public radio. It all starts here.
She believed that broadcasting had nealy unlimited potential as an educational medium. She developed network programs including the U. of Chicago Roundtable, American Medical Association (AMA) programs, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers series and others. She published a book Radio, the Fifth Estate, in 1946. It's widely considered to be the most thorough text on the broadcast practices of radio's golden age.

We start at a newspaper, the Chicago Daily News, who hired Waller in April 1922 to put its newly licensed radio station WMAQ on the air. This station evolved quickly from a two hour per day schedule with two-person staff into heritage powerhouse wel all know. WMAQ was the home of Amos 'n' Andy and the first station to broadcast a complete home season of a professional baseball team the Chicago Cubs. You can call that the birth of Sports Radio too while you're at it.

NBC purchased WMAQ in November 1931 and Ms. Waller became the director of public affairs programming for the NBC. She held the office for 26 years.

She was born before the last turn of the century, in 1889, and was of the earliest women in radio. Her book: Radio, the Fifth Estate, becomes doubly interesting when you realize that many of the techniques and practices she describes she had, invented herself. In that sense it's autobiographical.