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Peter Laufer - journalist, broadcaster, U of Oregon School of Journalism

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Published on Jan 15, 2014

I think radio is my favorite medium. Radio is magical. It's a cliché to say that radio is the theatre of mind, but it really is. And even right now, if you are looking at my image, so this is essentially television and if I tell you: "It's a beautiful spring day in Paris", you'll probably get an image of white puffy clouds and a blue sky. But if I tell you that right now in fact it's unseasonably cold here in Paris, and it's snowing, and there is a layer of snow on the ground under the Eiffel Tower, you'll see that too! I've just changed that image, even though you are in fact looking at me, it's not just radio. That's the magic of radio. And radio works anywhere. If you are going to watch a TV show, you'd better not be ironing because you may burn your blouse, but with radio you can spend two hours in a car commuting to work in Los-Angeles, you can iron that blouse or you can engage people worldwide who may not have the money for TV set or a connection to a TV set, they may not have the money for a newspaper or they may not be literate in the language that the newspaper is published. With radio you can reach anybody.
In the midst of the flash of the so-called "new media" it's sometimes easy to forget those old friends, that medium that's been with us forever, it seems, and it is there taking care of us today. That's why UNESCO's World Radio Day, coming up February 13, is so important. Events like this remind us that radio is critical as a communication tool for societies worldwide.
It used to be that most, maybe even all radio news announcers were men with this deep voice that we call "voice of doom" offering you the dismal details of daily downer. There was thinking in the profession that you had to have that deep radio male voice in order to have credibility. It used to be said in the industry: "Boy, he's got the pipes", and if they want to insult the guy, they'd say: "he sure has a voice for radio". Women had a hard time breaking into the radio news business because it was taught that both the femininity that was inherent in their voice and the range would not be able to deliver that sense of authority. Those days, of course, are long gone. Gender equality with radio announcers is reality, because radio announcers in the current era represent society. That's where their credibility comes from. Not from that deep voice.

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