Happy Birthday, Radio News

Monday, August 31, was the 100th anniversary of the first radio news program, a milestone worth commemorating in this election year.

One hundred years ago, the users of radio were hobbyists. In Detroit, home of the Scripps newspaper family’s The Detroit News, the company faced a dilemma. Radio was a threat to newspapers, yet it was also a logical way to disseminate news.

Would anyone listen to a news broadcast? As a test, they hired a teenager named Michael DeLisle Lyons to start up a radio station. It was established under his name so they wouldn’t be embarrassed if it failed. Lyons got the necessary permits on August 20, 1920, and he played nonstop music for 10 days as a trial. The primary elections were August 31, and The Detroit News reported that returns would be broadcast that evening.

The report in the newspaper the next morning read: “The sending of the election returns by The Detroit News’ radiophone Tuesday night was fraught with romance and must go down in the history of man’s conquest of the elements as a gigantic step in his progress. In the four hours that the apparatus […] was hissing and whirring its message into space, few realized that a dream and a prediction had come true. The news of the world was being given forth through this invisible trumpet to the waiting crowds in the unseen market place.”

Their radio station began under the call letters 8MK and still broadcasts today as WWJ, and it still uses an all-news format.

Taken from The Writer’s Almanac of August 31, 2020 (https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-writers-almanac?).

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