Monday, September 20, 2010


In the year 1946, John Hogan of 970 WCSH-AM, began a letter-writing campaign. He was sending letters to radio news writers, reporters and editors to propose a national association for radio news editors. Slowly it came together and their first meeting was scheduled for October 24th, 1946.  Sixty five newsmen met at the Allerton Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. It began as NARNE, The National Association of Radio News Editors. This was not a meeting of the first group radio newsmen, but it was the first national group. There was already a totally separate group called the Iowa association radio news editors. An article at the  University of Iowa Library website list a historical review detailing the following from those first 72 hours of NARND:
"Committees were set up for Awards and Education. A Membership Committee was established to decide how to handle candidates for membership and a Board of Directors was appointed. The first Directors were John Hogan, John Murphy, Jack Shelley (WHO, Des Moines), Jack Krueger (WTMJ, Milwaukee), Tom Eaton (WTIC, Hartford), Bob Mahoney (KWKH, Shreveport), Les Ford (WGR, Buffalo), Soren Munkhof (WOW, Omaha), Ben Chatfield (WMAZ, Macon), Sig Mickelson (WCCO, Minneapolis), Milo Knutson (KFBI, Wichita), and Dave Kessler (WHAM, Rochester). Officers were John Hogan, President, Sig Mickelson, First Vice-President, Jack Shelley, Second Vice-President, John Murphy, Treasurer, and Edward Wallace (WTAM, Cleveland) Executive Secretary."
They met and conferenced for three days.  In that time their Constitution Committee headed up by John Murphy of WCKY/Cincinnati. wrote their Constitution. John Hogan Chaired the charter convention, and as he was at the epicenter of things he naturally became the first president of what was now NARND. They selected a name for the organization and elected their first officers: 12 members for a Board of Directors,  an Executive Secretary, and four officers. Hogan was re-elected president at their second convention, in Washington D.C. in November of 1947.  He is the only man who ever served two consecutive terms as president.

In a 1947 issue of Billboard discusses a code of ethics being formulated by the "newly formed" association. they list by name the members of the board. It includes: Sereno Gammell of WTHT/ Hartford, Jack Kreuger of WTMJ/Milwaukee, Jack Knell WBT/Charlotte, Soren Munkof WOW/Omaha, and Fred Hinshaw WLBC/Muncie.  The president ot NARNE at the time was still John HoganIn November of 1948 their the third annual convention was held in Saint Louis, MO. At that convention they elected their third President, Sig Mickelson, of WCCO/Minneapolis.

In all this meeting, greeting and convening they did actually have a philosophical purpose. radio News had really proved it's importance as a platform to convey information on par to the newspaper. It's very similar to the way the internet has become a primary conveyance for news now on par with television. NARND wanted essentially to promote it's members occupation. It seems self-serving, but truthfully the power was already there, all that was left were the semantics of recognition. Their interest in professionalism and ethics while laudable was in retrospect, secondary. But I'll quote from their 1946 convention statement anyway.
"...locally originated news should be gathered, written, and presented by station personnel trained in news writing and evaluation; that this news should be written and presented accurately and without bias, to inform as many as possible, and should remain within the bounds of good taste; that the autonomy of the news director and his news department in the radio station should be recognized; that the news director should be directly responsible only to his journalistic principles and ideals, and to the general manager of the station."
It comes back to that first change from NARNE to NARND.They felt there was a difference. The name under which the Cleveland convention gathered was the National Association of Radio News Editors; NARNE. But at that very conference they changed that last word to "Directors."  Long time member Jack Shelly explained it thusly "The change was made because from its start the organization was dedicated to the belief that professional news departments should report directly to station management; that the role of the News Director is a key one; and for many years full voting rights were reserved to persons who directed news operations with their stations, in a deliberate attempt to emphasize the status of such persons."  

In 1950, keeping in line with that thinking,  they ran a successful campaign to get News Directors listed with other station executives in trade publications such as Broadcasting Yearbook. It was about recognition and also in a strange way, political clout. In their first year, then President Hogan told the FCC that a majority of NARND members thought that radio news should be allowed to editorialize.  Even then the direction for news was clear, opinion presented as well as fact. At that first conference one of the panels was named "Shall We Editorialize on the Air?, "News Gathering and Coverage."

We've come full circle today with much editorializing and punditry presented as news, or instead of news. it's hard to remember but in 1949 we were still in the grips of the Fairness Doctrine. Editorializing was a delicate art. the FCC decision  was brand stinking new after the 1949 FCC Report on Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees. (I wrote about that once before here.) What's more interesting is that before the FCC decision in 1949, NARND supports the FCC on editorializing, even  opposing station owners. But after after the decision they the other way.  But it was contentious. Billboard described that November 15th meeting in DC as "acrimonious."  They proposed a resolution to support non-partisan news coverage, essentially a position against editorializing. It was voted down. The war went on for decades.

In 1952 they changed their name to the Radio-Television News Directors Association the RTNDA now accepting both Television news directors and members from abroad, mostly Canada. They've kept that name for half a century, you can visit them here.