The Source: Saving Radio
Early radio broadcasts were understood to be ephemeral. The signal - and sound - lasting only as long as it took for your listener to hear it, then gone forever. Even after recording technologies became commonplace, oftentimes the recordings sat in radio station basements and reporters' home attics. But now the Library of Congress wants those recordings.
The Radio Preservation Task Force is tasked with tracking down the treasure troves of community broadcasts, recognizing that the intangibles that voice provides coupled with the community conversations going on stations through call-in and community forum programs is unlike much else in the transcription of American life.
Add to that the fact that some events are best relived through the sound of a radio broadcast. A recent Atlantic article highlighted the iconic moment that NBA Goliath Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game. Here at TPR, we were delighted to recently host the first man who broadcast the shooting of President John F Kennedy at our Worth Repeating event, and then subsequently witnessing the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald.
The radio has played an outsized role in American History, everyone from Presidents to the Spanish-language Disc Jockey have used it to communicate with the community. To make a mark, though ephemeral it might be, in the landscape of society.
- Josh Shepperd, Director of the Radio Preservation Task Force for the National Recording Preservation Board at the Library of Congress. He is also an assistant professor of Media Studies at The Catholic University of America