Thursday, September 01, 2011

Baukhage on ABC

I like going into the archives and coming back with obscure tidbits. Were this a video blog  (vlog?) thsi is where I'd roll the Baukhage montage, because puns like that ddon't present themselves every day. But Hilmar Robert Baukhage deserves a montage. He was a real and credible news man back when the news was something that made politicians skittish and sweaty.  He was both objective and informed, that's just plain dangerous.

The Baukhage Talking-News and commentary aired from 1942-1953. It was he who announced the start of World War II from Berlin in 1939. He later aired the first live newscast from the White House on May 20th 1939. He later hosted a marathon eight-hour report on the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7th 1941. Some of it was him and some of it was the times but he was the voice that everyone heard. For two world wars he was a big name in news.

He was born in 1889 in Illinois, then his family relocated to Buffalo, NY. He studied in France, and Germany  eventually becoming fluent in both languages. He graduated form the University of Chicago in 1912. He wrote for newspapers and magazines including The Pall Mall gazette, Stars and Stripes where he covered the Versailles treaty in France.  He eventually got a job with the AP. Later he wrote for United States News, which later became US News & World Report. He enlisted in WWI and served in field artillery. When the war ended he returned to the U.S. and got into radio.

 He started working for NBC Blue in 1932. His first bit was a 5-minute segment on the National farm and Home Hour. (Some sources date this to 1934)  In 1939 he was sent to Europe to report on the war. When Roosevelt wrote an open letter to the emperor of Japan Baukhage read it on air. He covered the attack on pearl harbor from the White house. By the time NBC Blue became ABC in 1945 he'd already been doing his own 15-minute segment for years. In 1948 he moved on to the Mutual network who carried his program to 545 radio stations. As time had rolled on, he had developed a tendency to talk about nature, and history and to speak at length about scenery.  In 1951,(some sources say 1953)  they declined to renew his contract. They claimed he talked to long for modern listeners. Thus ended his 20 year career in broadcasting.

He retired , fished, and wrote a column for the JANAF Register, and in 1959 did some broadcasts for Pentagon reports on AFRN. But he wasn't doing back to radio. He wrote a column for US News & World Report from 1963 to 1967, then retired for real after a series of strokes.  Everyone knows the name Walter Winchell, H. L. Mencken, Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite, and even Morley Safer. But despite doing the news through two world wars Baukhage is largely forgotten. He died in 1976 at the age of 87.