Driving from Galesburg to Elkhart Sunday afternoon, blissfully unaware of the lake-effect snowstorm awaiting me in northwestern Indiana, I was listening to Weekend All things Considered on National Public Radio. I've never met the host, Andrea Seabrook, but I think of her as a friend--someone who brings a smile to my face by just the sound of her voice. Seabrook's audience may be in the millions, but she makes you feel as though you're part of her special circle of friends.
Susan Stamberg is a woman I'd trust about anything except Thanksgiving food. I've listened to her since she was co-host of All Things Considered in the early 1970s. She doesn't have the intimacy of Seabrook, but her voice has an air of authority and experience.
But that afternoon, Seabrook got Stamberg on the line to grouse about Barack Obama's decision to put his weekly radio talks on YouTube. I'm not sure they were entirely serious, but it bothered me that Stamberg made the comment that if radio was good enough for FDR, is should be good enough for the president-elect. The trouble is, radio wasn't good enough for Franklin D. Roosevelt, as the YouTube video shows. Of course there was no YouTube during FDR's presidency, and television was in its infancy. But there was video, in the form of newsreels. I'm old enough to remember when movie theaters showed newsreels, along with cartoons and short features, before the main attraction. By the mid-1960s most cinemas had abandoned the newsreel. But in FDR's time, newsreels were the only way to see and hear the news. And FDR took advantage of them by making his "Fireside Chats" avaialble to the reels. If there had been a YouTube, he would have been on it.
I rely on NPR almost exclusively for my news. And I agree with Stamberg and Seabrook about the advantages of radio over audio-visual. For one thing, it's something I can do while I'm driving, or lying in bed with my eyes closed. But Obama has the duty to communicate with as many people as he can. That includes the people who don't listen to radio, as well as those who don't happen to be listening at the time of day he gives his weekly talk.
An outrage? Or, as Stamberg says, like having roast beef on Thanksgiving? No to the first. And as for the second, roast beef on Thanksgiving isn't such a bad idea. The Pilgrims of the Plymouth Plantation, whose 1621 harvest festival inspired the American Thanksgiving, ate venison along with turkey and fish. While a steer isn't a deer, it's still a hoofed animal. Close enough. Besides, Stamberg's ideas about Thanksgiving food are, well, a little bit suspect.