History Held a Microphone
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 3, Number 1, February 1973
- pp. 13-16
- Additional Information
History Held a Microphone by Donald Godfrey Milo Ryan - Phono Archives University of Washington On a dreary day in the winter of 1958, Professor Milo Ryan was correcting papers in his office. Footsteps crackling against the polished floor startled him from work. A young student appeared at the door, "his eyes were popping out of his head...." "Mr. Ryan, you've got to come down here, the Germans have just been driven out of Stalingrad." The event occurred in 1943. It was 1958 as this graduate student discovered, in the "Milo Ryan Phonoarchives", that history held a microphone. Today I am concerned, not with research accomplished, but a research source. A source pertinent in the mass communications, history, rhetoric, political science, international relations and entertainment. This source is the "Milo Ryan Phonoarchives" which contains nearly 5,000 tape recorded historical radio programs. In 1956, Professor Ryan needed the wartime oratory of Churchill and Roosevelt. After a long disappointing search, he called radio station KIRO. "Yes, some records had been stored in the basement of the transmitter building at Vashion Island, in the middle of Puget Sound." KIRO suggested that any records Professor Ryan wanted he could take. The invitation brougt back 52 packing cases. The ferry listed a little to the starboard under the load, but the treasure was transported safely to the campus of the University of Washington. There are twenty-two hundred and twenty-seven newscasts. All but a handful originating from CBS. Their newscasts represent every weekday without a miss, from September 7, 1939, with the Germans entering Poland, to April 2, 1945, with the allies entering Germany. Through these news programs comes a list of names and personalities one might call the Who's Who of Radio News Reporting. These names occur with great frequency: Cecil Brown, Winston Burdette, Ned Calmer, Charles Dayly, Elmer Davis, Bill Downs, Douglas Edwards, Harry Flannery, Richard C. Rottele H. V. Kaltenborn, Edward R. Murrow, Quenton Reynolds, Eric Sevaried, William L. Shirer, Howard K. Smith, Robert Trout, William White, and many others. Tapes contain examples of special events coverage: the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, the bombing of Japan, landings in North Africa, the 13 Normandy Invasion, the World Security Conference, April, 1945, the function of the American and Russian Armies, April, 1945, the death and funeral of FDR, and miles of tape on V. E. and V.J. days. Elmer Davis' daily five minute reports are represented in entirety from his debut, September 16, 1939, to February 13, 1941, and occasionally to July 9, 1943. H. V. Kaltenbom edits the news, complete from August 27, 1939, until January 26, 1940, and sporadically thereafter. Our library includes 21 speeches by Winston Churchill, representing 12 hours of this master of language. There are 51 talks by President Roosevelt totalling 24 continuous hours. How does it happen that we have these recordings in Seattle? They are recordings from the network lines by the CBS affiliate in Seattle, KIRO. And in the 1930' s and 1940' s recording took audacity as there was a firm stipulation in the affiliation contract between networks and the station that everything carried be live. Even in the cases where a network program was rebroadcast for reasons of time differentials, the programs were repeated live, not as recordings. The war approached and the management of KIRO reasoned that an important part of what was flowing through the system was information of a grim history and it ought to be kept. This material, particularly the news reports, came at a time when the majority of the audience would not be at their receiving sets. A newscast originating in New York at 6 p.m. reached Seattle at 3 p.m., hardly a suitable time for the news oriented audience. The answer was a recorded delay, something ruled out in the networkaffiliate agreement. If KIRO asked for a waiver of the rules, the petition would be denied. So, on the theory don't ask for a ruling and none is likely made, KIRO went ahead without asking. Remember these recordings were made from glass, aluminum and its alloys having been transported to battle. The network carried, and KIRO transcribed, many hours...