Impact of “War of the Worlds” Radio Broadcast
On October 30, 1938, the radio drama, “War of the Worlds”, was broadcasted on American radio by CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System). The beginning of the radio broadcast opens with the narrator and broadcaster declaring there is an explosion and disturbances on a New Jersey farm that was being observed by professors at Princeton. The broadcast is formatted similar to a breaking news cast with multiple bulletins being played over and over discussing the multiple explosions.
The beginning of the broadcast started with what sounds like a normal broadcast and news report before talking about the meteor that had fell on the farm in New Jersey. Some of the most notable points of this broadcast were the descriptions and sound effects used in order to discuss the Martians and the foreign object and the scare. Because radio was the primary media in this time period, it was important for the broadcast to sound as believable as possible. It was essential that this broadcast made people believe it was real and accurate. The sound effects accurately reflected what many may think the situation may look like. The narrators spoke with striking and believable details.
Not only was the broadcast produced very well, but its impact was substantial. According to History.com the broadcast caused a false fear amongst American people. The broadcast not only spoke about the Martian but they also did news cast about its impact on major cities, citizens, and included speeches in the broadcast as well and the false use of the National Guard. It should be noted that the broadcast was also played on a Sunday evening which was known as a prime time for radio at that time. It is possible that the “War of the Worlds” broadcast was listened to by close to a million people. In order to incite the type of fear to thousands of American listeners that this broadcast did, was largely due to quality of the broadcast.
The broadcast was also significant to radio and journalism. A quote taken from the broadcast stated, “Radio has a respolisbiliy to serve in the public interest at all time.” Although the broadcast may have been a false story, it was still a clear representation of journalism protecting the people’s right to know. This broadcast, had it been true, would have given the story from different point of views, provided first-hand accounts from what would have been relevant sources, and given a very accurate and detailed description of the actual event itself, and how the story event was progressing. The main importance of this broadcast to journalism, radio, and media, was that it served as a perfect example of how journalist should strive to cover the events happening that effect the public. Also, the broadcast was a clear representation of a journalist taking advantage of their first amendment rights. The FCC (Federal Communications Commissions) had investigated the program but found that Orson Welles didn’t break any laws in broadcasting the story.
Journalist can learn and take away many elements from this broadcast. Whether it be paying extreme close attention to details, providing many relevant sources, using other elements (sound in the case of this broadcast) in order to more effectively report the story, or being mindful of being entertaining while reporting, journalist and media professionals can learn from this broadcast. Although what journalist will report will be factual stories for the public, by studying the delivery of this broadcast we can effectively create striking packages and reports. Alternatively, this also teaches journalist to take nothing for face value, but to always research every story for yourselves, and be skeptical of the reports of others.