Even in the early going, there were editors who stood behind the contract with the listeners to give them an honest accounting of the day's events. I know they won't listen to me.
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I know they won't help me. But, god-damn-it, I have my own radio and I've got to make that work. Wouldn't you admit that sometimes the VOA has a problem reconciling its dual roles as both a government agency and an impartial news source? I think that there is a hunger for the straight story. Special English being a variant of Standard English, was designed back in to aid comprehension of those listeners for whom English was a second language.
If I may, I'd like to read from page of the book. Hail thee, special English.
On the Media
Thou art a virgin maiden, uncorrupted, simple, easy. Ye rang a familiar tone to one and all,. Learned and wise, as much to the uninitiated. Simple is beautiful. No frills, no twists nor pretensions.
Ye wind your way to the heart to strike a familiar chord. It's neither the king's nor the queen's,. But that of very common folk. It is a symphony in prose. Long live special English. I think that the most famous and, and certainly most beloved voice of the Voice of America is probably that of Willis Conover. He once made a visit to Moscow, got out into the great packed hall in the center of the city and all he said was the standard introduction to his signature program.
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- The Listener's Voice;
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The Voice was then jammed by the Chinese government. The following program is in Chinese.
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I think even the Chinese themselves conceded, before that martial law was imposed on that day in May of , that the Voice probably had 60 million listeners. It was, I think, clear that its impact was historic, in National Public Radio alone reaches more than 20 million listeners, and its daily newsmagazine shows, "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition," attract a larger audience than any program except Rush Limbaugh's.
All this, one might add, in a medium that was supposed to be a vestige of its former self, if not dead and buried, by now. The Bush administration, to be sure, does not regard NPR as ephemeral.
Within the last few months, the administration has undertaken the most serious assault ever on NPR's independence, proposing two new ombudsmen even though NPR already has one and a formal analysis of its Middle East coverage. For all the impact of public radio on journalism and on American culture at large -- which, it should be said, the administration's attacks serve the perverse purpose of underscoring -- it has gone relatively unchronicled. Weekly magazines and daily newspapers devote a fraction of the space to public radio that they do to network and cable television.
Only now, with the publication of "Listener Supported," by Jack W. McCauley, has the history begun to be weighed.
For that alone, whatever the limitations of these books, one can be grateful. Inevitably, Mitchell and McCauley cover much of the same material.
They trace public radio's development, under pioneers like William Siemering, from that hodgepodge of educational stations into a network committed to thorough, thoughtful reportage on a modest budget, then to a major international news organization. The books also delineate NPR's financial oscillations, from near bankruptcy under the spendthrift leadership of Frank Mankiewicz in to the threatened cutoff of federal money by Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich to the largely successful effort to nurture businesses, private foundations and listeners as cash cows.
That trend, in turn, provides Mitchell and McCauley with their third common plotline -- the concern that public radio's effort to build large, generous audiences with news-oriented programming has crowded out inventive shows. Although the two books share a lot, they are separated by a substantial accomplishment gap.
McCauley, a former journalist in both commercial and public radio and now a professor at the University of Maine, looks at NPR almost entirely in institutional terms. He efficiently covers the landmark events, but largely ignores the story of how public radio and its leading practitioners developed their craft, and indeed their art.
Reading his book is the equivalent of being given the sales figures or chart position of a particular song without ever learning who wrote it, how it was recorded or what it sounds like.
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Mitchell, in contrast, sees public radio in large and catholic terms. A professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of Wisconsin, he has lived much of the history himself; he was the first producer of "All Things Considered" and a three-time chairman of NPR's board of directors. In an enlightening way, he tracks NPR's mission back to the Progressive era of the early 20th century and the movement to create nonprofit newspapers free of the "corrupting influence of 'commercialism.
One was the BBC under Lord Reith, with its sense of mission to "create better citizens, better human beings. As Mitchell incisively tells it, National Public Radio struggled in its own formative years to reconcile populism and pedantry. Unlike McCauley, who seems tone-deaf to the creative aspects of radio, Mitchell acutely understands them. He explains how Siemering's nearly religious passion for radio as an illuminating force was rooted in the childhood years he accompanied his parents on the chautauqua circuit, for which both were actors.
He identifies the traits that made Susan Stamberg such an effective host for "All Things Considered" -- "an insightful and idiosyncratic interviewer, a very strong writer of radio copy and a vivacious interpreter of that copy.