Monday, September 24, 2012

Writing assignment #4: Choose a single folder from the vertical files from the Broadcasting Archives – station files, subject files, transcripts, pamphlets. Whatever you pick, summarize it briefly and try to give the subject some historical context. Describe the contents of the folder. (250-350 words; 2-3 secondary sources).


  1. I chose an article profiling the head of the NBC Information Department, Kathryn Cole, titled "Kathryn Cole Reads Off-Beat NBC Mail," sometime in the mid 1960s. The piece goes into the diverse, and at times bizarre viewer mail the station received. Cole was in charge of sorting and responding to the letters. I noticed right away an interesting attitude viewers seemed to have towards television based off their letters. People would mail in requests that the station research and announce the answers to questions they had, many of which were obviously homework assignments. I think it's interesting that television appeared to have operated as a rough search box for the American public. Television had begun to become informative, rather than just entertaining in the 1960s. The public had news stories and Walter Cronkite; television was the most immediate and direct source of information (; in many ways it was a crude version of the Internet. People mailing in letters were running "searches". The station also got requests for possessions from viewers--fur coats, cars, even prop sideburns. Viewers got to see items they wanted on the television right in front of them. Theses requests are also telling of the personal relationship viewers felt they had with television shows. They believed they could just mail in a request, anything from a question to a desire for a car, and get it. The diversity of viewers--age, gender, class--reflected in the mail is significant given the time period. Before the 1960s hit television sets were not easy to come by, too expensive for many households.The 1960s marked a new life for television because the price for television sets went down, allowing the average family to buy one, perhaps even two ( The letters described in the article range from children offering their "services" as detectives for the station, to housewives asking for a spare mike for their children to play with, to college students mailing in homework assignments to answered on the air. This diversity is evidence of a greater audience and greater interest of television.

  2. I was very excited for this assignment once I heard that the library had information on WJZ-TV in Baltimore. Not only is it the station I have been watching my whole life but it is where my father has worked for the last 39 years. I have basically grown up there and heard so much about it my whole life. My dad had always told me about how popular the station was back before cable became popular so I based my research around that knowledge. He said they had some of the best ratings in the country for any local news program so I made it my mission to find out why.
    Through the 1970s there were only 3 major stations in Baltimore, WJZ, WMAR, and WBAL. WJZ was constantly at the bottom of the 3 in ratings until two new anchors were hired in the early 1970’s. Their names were Jerry Turner and Al Saunders and they changed the way the news was presented in Baltimore forever. The team quickly took over 1st place and kept the lead for nearly 20 years.
    By 1982, Turner and Saunders lead the station to a 51 share for ratings in the 11 p.m. news (TV Ratings in Baltimore). This means that more than half of the TV audience was watching the station for the 11 p.m. show (TV Ratings in Baltimore). To put it into perspective, WBAL was in second place with an 18 share (TV Ratings in Baltimore). The duo was voted as the reader’s favorite weeknight anchor team in 1982 as well getting 59% of the votes cast (Lebar).The ridiculous ratings stayed up through the 80s as they scored a 48 share in 1985 (WJZ TV).
    Everything changed in 1988 when beloved anchorman Jerry Turner died of cancer at only 58 years old. The stations dominance that lasted over nearly 20 years was over. Today they alternate between first and second but chances are they will never have the extremely high ratings that they once did.

    Lebar, Scott. "Broadcasting the Viewers Views." News American 29 Aug. 1982: n. pag. Print.
    McKerrow, Steve. "Al Sanders & Denise Koch." Evening Sun 11 Jan. 1988: n. pag. Print.
    Rosen, George. "Baltimore Tv 1st to Pass Radio." Variety [New York] 3 May 1950: n. pag.
    "TV Ratings in Baltimore Channel 13 Holds a Whopping Lead." 9 June 1982: n. pag. Print.
    WJZ TV. Advertisement. 20 June 1985: n. pag. Print.

  3. I was surprised to find that upon opening my chosen file, it contained only one artifact. It held only a hardbook copy from Columbia Broadcasting System with the title, “We don’t know why they listen”. Flipping through the pages I found charming illustrations in red ink. The pages were filled with questions and rationales, trying to explain why radio had become such a popular medium.
    There were I began to read a bit further into the book and was surprised at the audacity of this line, “Are they Tired of sex?”. I thought that 1949 was a time of suburban repression. Another possible answer/question to why radio was so popular was, “Or are they just tired of talking to each other?”. It is interesting that the book would touch upon that phenomenon technological isolation. Even though we are connecting to people, we are often physically alone. It is the paradox of the modern age, the technology which both makes distance irrelevant, also creates a deeper disconnect between humans.
    At first I speculated that a book of this brevity and such large font was probably meant for children. But upon further investigation it seemed much more likely that this book was meant for possible advertisers. In an attempt to illicit more funding, CBS probably sent out the book to companies in 1949.
    Just like the chapter five reading, this book was the glorification of an empire. The book goes on and on to talk about what makes CBS so fantastic. For example, saying that 8 out of the top 15 programs were on the CBS dockett. They listed, Arthur Godfrey, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Lux radio Theatre, Jack Benny and others to prove their point.
    So what relevance does this book have to today? It’s interesting to see how CBS responded to advertisers. Radio was at it’s peak but people were only just beginning to study the phenomenon of its popularity. Clearly advertisers wanted more to justify their backing. The little piece of propaganda that I found did a good job of framing the questions and answering with data backed arguments as to why CBS was worth investing in.

    - , National Captial Radio & Television Museum. Bowie, Maryland

  4. I grabbed the file with every and anything containing information about the building and opening of the Rockfeller Center. It had frayed and flaking newspaper clippings, playbooks and photos. It was so cool to me be because this was a time ridden with such sadness and poverty. The project was completed in 1933, right in the middle of the Great Depression. After reading the clips and articles, it seemed as though this building was bringing people joy. It was almost appearing to them as the light at the end of the tunnel; that through all this grief and strife, this country will be good again; it will build itself back up. It kind of reminds me of Titanic. The newspaper clippings said it was the tallest and largest complex built in modern times. The world, or atleast the US, had never known something this grand. “And that, it was. It really was.”- Rose Dawson, Titanic
    One of the most famous pictures is included in this file; Lunch Atop a Skyscraper. This photo was included in my search and it turns out that the picture had its 80th birthday on Thursday, Sept. 20. This was a highlight for the building because, as the article said, “This is the first two years of the Great Depression,” says Mr. Johnston. “Usually when you saw lines of men, at that time, they’d be in a bread line, at a soup kitchen,” not working and eating lunch, he says. Here, in the new and exciting age of skyscrapers, the photo displayed “the worker in America in the 30s, keeping going and building.” This really struck me because it was so true. Not only was the building becoming a landmark for the country but the workers and prosperity was becoming a symbol. These articles and opening night playbooks really showed that this country can come back from anything. We may have to work hard for it, sweat a little and cry a little, but we can build skyscrapers if we want to.

  5. I chose an article that gave a summary of the 1960 annual year review for CBS news. This really seemed like an intresting time for TV, as politics seemed to highlight the year for CBS along various other things. 1960 was the first time two presidential candidates of both major parties shared the same platform to discuss issues in front of all major TV networks and also on the radio. This was obviously between the current vice president at the time, Richard Nixon, versus the Senator Kennedy, which really changed how a president had to appear in front of a nation. First the first time a president had to have a good TV presence, otherwise that would hurt your chances at being elected. I remember hearing from other classes talking about the debates these two had, that the people listening on the radio believed Nixon had won the debate, while people on TV believed that Kennedy won the debate. This goes to show the importance TV had and still has on society, as it stretched out to the presidential race.

    In total there were 56 news programs that covered 12 hours and 11 minutes in airtime. Highlights of the 1960 annual year included: the developments in Congo, the election obviously and the vote count, the World Series, and also showing the unrest of Cuba and Algeria.

    The sports department also made substantial growth as they produced 315 and half hours of TV sports programming, increase of 3.4% and 86 and a half hours on the radio, an increase of 19.4%.

    CBS also welcomed new carriers to its network as it now reached out to 36 more subscribers as it now covered all major markets including 38 cities in 25 foreign countries. In total, 62,000,000 people all around the world could now see CBS newsfilm. It is safe to say that 1960 was a successful year for CBS as it grew its market considerably.

    "THE KENNEDY-NIXON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES, 1960 - The Museum of Broadcast Communications." Http:// N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.

  6. For my vertical file assignment I looked at "Show of Shows" script #33 from January 20, 1951. One of the most interesting things that I found in this file is that there was a pantomime skit in the show. I was rather unfamiliar with the technicalities of pantomime vs mime so I chose to look that up. According to the "What is Pantomime anyway?" website, is a skit acted out by several stock actors and may or may not have vocalization. Apparently, the website says, vocalization is more popular in modern pantomime. In the "Show of Shows" there are only several words or phrases in the script and the rest is cues and physical actions. I find it amazing that even though sound was an option, the producers still chose to entertain people through pantomime. Interesting.

    Secondly, I thought it was very cool how they chose a vaudeville star for the show. According to, Imogene Coca came from a vaudeville family and started her training in Philadelphia and debuted in New York. I love the idea of vaudeville shows and the rather sad decline of the industry due to television. It's very cool to see which stars made the successful transition from the stage to the TV set.

  7. For my vertical file assignment I chose a set of newspaper articles from the Washington Post dating back to 1976 that reported about WGTB-FM, which was Georgetown University’s radio station, being taken off the air for repeated friction between university officials and station volunteers whose programming included abortion referral announcements and special shows for homosexuals. Once known as one of the most controversial college radio stations in the country, the station was full on controversy throughout the 1970s covering anti-Vietnam War protests, the labor movement, and gay and lesbian issues. They were ahead of their time as the station also aired ads for contraceptives.

    An article from the Post from May 17, 1976 says that a citizens group filed a petition with the FCC asking that the university be stripped of its license to operate the station. The FCC had received “six to eight” complaints about the station in previous years about “sensitive language.” I thought the entire feud with the administration was well deserved, as it seems like the radio station felt they had the right to air whatever they felt necessary. The station was known for its “alternative programming appealing to women, blacks, gays, consumer activities and college-age youths”, according to the Post. The station seemed to be ahead of its time and because of its location in Washington D.C., the FCC seemed focused on keeping the station at bay.

    In addition, I found the articles to be especially interesting because there are more articles that say the radio station returned to the air after being forced off for two months in March 1976. However, by 1979 the administration pulled the radio station for good and sold it to the University of the District of Columbia for $1. In 1997, that school sold the station for $13 million.

  8. In my vertical stack I found an interesting magazine filled with a pin-up type girl on a swing, or as the magazine called it, the "Swing Girl." It turns out that the swing girl was used as almost a mascot for the WHB Radio station, formed in the late 1930s. I was surprised at first that in the 20's a radio company would have been able to get away with a girl in revealing clothes as a public mascot, (normally those things would have been saved for the side of an airplane in the 40s) but being as the 20's was really a time for flappers and jazz, I could see it being a little more liberal in terms of what someone could use as a mascot.

    The station itself was located in Kansas City, and was bought by the Cook Paint and Varnish Company. The magazine I found was actually a collection of "Swing Magazine" Which was printed by Cook Paint and Varnish to be used as a marketing device for the radio station. Each copy featured a swing girl on the cover and advertisements on the inside, as well as music information in the Kansas City area.(1)(2)

    The Magazine itself was sent to buyers, and executives free of charge, and was set at 25 cents a copy for the general public. The swing girl was used as a marketing tool elsewhere in the Kansas City area, mostly on
    billboards to advertise WHB. (3)




  9. For this assignment I chose one of the WJZ-Baltimore folders from the 70s because I’m from Baltimore and that’s one of the main local news stations that I watch when I’m back at home. The folder that I chose was mainly about Oprah Winfrey. I found this folder to be somewhat interesting because I use to love the Oprah Winfrey show and I think it’s so great that she got started right around here in Baltimore.
    The contents in this folder had articles predominantly about Oprah’s time at the Baltimore station. She started her career at WJZ-13 in 1976 as an anchor on the 6 p.m. newscast when she was only 22 years old under a 3-year contract. Just seven and a half months later, Oprah was removed from the 6 p.m. news. After such a big buildup and then being fired not even a year later, was Oprah’s first and worst failure in her TV career. But that didn’t stop her; she stayed at the station and went on to host a morning talk show with Richard Sher called People Are Talking for six years. People Are Talking was an hour long syndicated talk show, which later flopped as a syndicated show.
    After Oprah’s time at WJZ-13, she moved to Chicago in 1984 where she landed a job hosting a show called A.M. Chicago, which later became The Oprah Winfrey Show. Moving to Chicago was probably one of the best decisions Oprah has ever made in her life because that simple move is what caused her to be one of the richest women in the world today. Her start of her career wasn’t so smooth, it was pretty rocky actually, but it has led her to where she is today.
    Recently when Winfrey decided to end The Oprah Winfrey Show, many memories of her days at the WJZ station began to come up because that was the last job she left since her personal talk show began. Departing from the Oprah Winfrey Show was similar to her having to leave Baltimore and start a new chapter in her life. When Oprah looks back at her time in Baltimore, she doesn’t recall all her memories a fond ones. She said she faced some obstacles and endured some pain, like sexism, but at the end of the day she overcame those problems. Despite the problems she faced at WJZ, Oprah says that Baltimore grew her into a real woman because she came to Baltimore naïve and unskilled, but Baltimore grew her up.