Today in History: Dial-a-President Radio Program

| March 5, 2018

180305_News_219x365For better or for worse, different medias allow for communication at varying levels — encouraging us to ask why a president would choose to tweet, participate in a televised interview, speak over the radio, utilize a combination of mediums, or focus on one. Which medium is the most effective may depend on the purpose and depth of the message — significant in how we experience public affairs and politics. We think back to Marshall Mcluhan’s classic, The Medium Is the Massage (New York, Bantam Books, c1967), and grasp the impact of today’s social media, when taken in the spirit in which it’s intended. Bullet, bombshell, or grassroots, it can rub us apart or knead us together.

Some would argue that the radio, from its golden age in the 1930s, was an excellent way to help people feel closer to their president. We cite the prime example of Franklin Roosevelt “fireside chats”, a series of 28 evening radio addresses (1933-1944) that sought to reassure Americans during the difficulties of the Great Depression. But going live with call-ins over the air waves was unchartered territory at the White House until three decades later.

On March 5, 1977, the Dial-a-President Radio Program, or Ask President Carter, went live for the first and only time on CBS, with President Jimmy Carter answering questions from his desk at the Oval Office, as anchorman Walter Cronkite moderated queries by citizens from across the nation. It is reported that nine million calls flooded the tv studio, allowing close interaction between the public and the president.

The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.



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