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The New Orleans Press-Radio War: 1922-1936. Brian Collins. Introduction. The emergence of radio in America in the early 1920s was at first considered a novelty. Many newspapers scrambled to affiliate with radio stations because they were good publicity.

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The new orleans press radio war 1922 1936

The New Orleans Press-Radio War: 1922-1936

Brian Collins


Introduction
Introduction

  • The emergence of radio in America in the early 1920s was at first considered a novelty.

    • Many newspapers scrambled to affiliate with radio stations because they were good publicity.

    • Headlines soon emerged all over the country about new radio stations or newspaper-radio affiliations.

LSU/SLIS


Introduction1
Introduction

  • Many members of the press quickly became concerned by radio’s rapid growth and popularity.

    • The Associated Press issued a warning to its members in 1922 not to broadcast AP news.

    • Concerns about radio were brought up at various press association meetings beginning in the early 1920s.

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Introduction2
Introduction

  • Radio was soon looked upon by many members of the press as a threat and a direct challenge to the future stability of the newspaper industry for two reasons.

    • Radio was stealing advertising that would otherwise be used in newspapers.

    • Radio was beginning to encroach on the press’ main purpose: news dissemination.

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Introduction3
Introduction

  • The result of radio’s challenge to newspapers was the Press-Radio War, which was played out in three stages.

    • First Stage (1922 to mid-1933): Involved assessing radio’s threat to newspapers and deciding on a course of action.

    • Second Stage (mid-1933 to 1934): Press unifies to block radio’s growth and development.

    • Third Stage (1934 to 1936): Alliance and acquisition by nation’s press and radio.

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Introduction4
Introduction

  • The press-radio war in New Orleans followed a similar pattern of other cities its size, however, there were several differences that made the relationship between the city’s press and radio unique.

    • New Orleans’ newspapers successful implementation of a radio log blackout.

    • The successful radio piracy suit brought against WDSU by four New Orleans newspapers.

    • The rise in political power of Huey P. Long at the same time that the relationship between press and radio was most volatile.

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New orleans press radio war
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Radio broadcasting existed in New Orleans early in the 20th Century.

    • In 1913, Loyola University opened what was probably the first wireless telegraphy school in Louisiana.

    • The first amateur radio organization in New Orleans was formed in 1914 and had six members.

    • In January 1921, a New Orleans factory manager named Dorr Simmons became the first amateur to broadcast phonograph music.

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New orleans press radio war1
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • As in other cities throughout the United States, the newspapers of New Orleans were the first to start radio stations.

    • The Item founded WGV in April 1922.

    • The Times-Picayune founded WAAB in the same month.

    • The States founded WCAG in May 1922.

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New orleans press radio war2
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Radio affiliations were good publicity and information concerning radio proliferated in the pages of newspapers all over the country.

    • Newspapers printed photographs of amateur radio setups or those “listening-in” on programs.

    • Newspapers published advice columns or informative stories about radio technology.

    • Newspapers highlighted musicians or “talent” (increasingly borrowed from the vaudeville stage) performing on their stations.

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New orleans press radio war3
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Information pertaining to radio helped increase circulation and advertising. Typical classified radio advertisements included:

    • RADIO receiving sets, serial installations

      instruments made to order. The Elec-

      tric Repair Shop, 332 Chartres, Main 1859

      ------------------------

      RADIO INSTRUCTION

      PROFESSIONAL AND AMATEUR RADIO

      NOLA RADIO SCHOOL, 134 CHARTRES

      MAIN 1436

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New orleans press radio war4
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Typical instructions and diagram for building a radio receiving set in the States. The Rose Radio Supply Company advertisement is prominently displayed in the lower right (New Orleans States, 7 May 1922).

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New orleans press radio war5
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Radio was plagued by interference and static in the 1920s due to overcrowded frequencies and imprecise equipment.

    • Many cities had “silent nights,” when no stations would broadcast in order for listeners to pick-up distant signals.

    • Hot summer weather created static that infuriated many listeners.

    • Until mid-1920s, all stations were initially given the same frequency of 360 meters, causing overcrowded chaos over the airwaves.

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New orleans press radio war6
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • For some, the often intangible rewards of running a radio station did not offset its expense.

    • Costs for Detriot News station WWJ went from $3,606 in the first year to $80,000 in the third.

    • The Times-Picayune abandoned WAAB only a month after its founding, citing its prohibitive cost and radio’s uncertain future as reasons.

    • By mid-1924, all three newspapers had abandoned their original efforts at broadcasting.

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New orleans press radio war7
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Throughout the course of the 1920s and early 1930s, New Orleans newspapers tried their hand at radio again, this time only affiliating with stations, not owning them.

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New orleans press radio war8
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • In April 1925, the Item-Tribune affiliated with WSMB. At the time, it was the most powerful station in New Orleans. The radio towers atop the Canal Street Maison Blanche building, at first impressive, suggest the station’s low power and the radio industry’s infancy (Item-Tribune, 19 April 1925).

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New orleans press radio war9
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • The States tried its hand once again at affiliating with a radio station, this time in 1928 with WDSU (DeSoto-States-Uhalt). The station’s owner, Joseph Uhalt, soon ended the affiliation to obtain a radio network affiliation (New Orleans States, 6 July 1928).

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New orleans press radio war10
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • The doomed relationship between the States and WDSU helps explain the animosity that newspapers across the country felt about radio.

    • While the affiliation lasted with WDSU, the States enjoyed much radio advertising.

    • Once WDSU became a Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) affiliate, it dropped the States.

    • Press-radio relations nationwide soon took a sour turn.

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New orleans press radio war11
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • As a newspaper affiliated with New Orleans radio station WDSU, the States enjoyed business from radio advertisers. This RCA ad is typical of what could be expected from an affiliation with a radio station (New Orleans States, 6 July 1928).

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New orleans press radio war12
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Despite many setbacks, the States affiliated once again with a New Orleans radio station. In March 1931, the States began broadcasting two fifteen-minute news bulletins for Loyola University station WWL. Loyola’s Father Orie Abell setup a remote studio in the States offices from which the bulletins were broadcast.

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New orleans press radio war13
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Although newspaper advertising decreased after the birth of network chains in 1926, the main culprit for the drop was the Great Depression. Newspapers, however, blamed all their financial woes on radio.

Advertising Expenditures in Millions of Dollars

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New orleans press radio war14
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • One 10 June 1932, the four New Orleans daily newspapers – States, Item, Tribune, Times-Picayune – stopped printing the schedules of radio programs. Radio stations had heretofore relied on the free printing of these schedules to inform their listeners of programs. The program log blackout continued, despite considerable protestations by the city’s radio stations, until March 1934.

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New orleans press radio war15
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • The blackout in New Orleans was unique for two reasons.

    • It took place nearly a year before the nation’s press decided to take collective action against radio stations and the networks.

    • Only a handful of other cities, usually smaller cities with minimal newspaper competition, were able to successfully implement a program log blackout.

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New orleans press radio war16
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • In June 1933, the New Orleans newspapers sued station WDSU for news “piracy.”

    • They claimed that the radio station stole news from their papers, then broadcast it without authorization or even checking the accuracy of the information.

    • The New Orleans civil district court issued an injunction against the station and ordered that it not broadcast any news from the city’s newspapers less than 24 hours old.

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New orleans press radio war17
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • Huey P. Long rose to political power at the same time the relationship between the New Orleans press and radio stations was most volatile.

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New orleans press radio war18
New Orleans Press-Radio War

  • He showed great skill in manipulating both mediums to his advantage.

    • Long used radio to bypass the Louisiana press, often using much of the airtime to denounce the “lying newspapers of Louisiana.”

    • Long established his own newspaper, called the Louisiana Progress (later the American Progress to reflect his national political aspirations) in which it gave special attention to the issues he believed were important.

    • Long implemented a tax on newspaper advertising in order to control the state’s press. The newspapers sued and the case – Grosjean v. American Press Co. – went all the way to the Supreme Court. The newspapers won.

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Conclusion
Conclusion

  • The New Orleans press-radio war from 1922 to 1936 was similar to that of other cities throughout the nation. It was truly unique, however, in several ways.

    • The successful implementation of a program log blackout by the city’s newspapers.

    • The successful collective action taken in a news “piracy” case against station WDSU.

    • The manipulation by the Long regime of the volatile relationship between the city’s press and radio.

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The end
THE END

Louisiana State University

Library and Information Science program:

267 Coates Hall, LSU, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803

(225) 578 - 3158, or fax (225) 578 - 4581.

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