Woodrow Wilson, in 1917, delivered his declaration of war against Germany by speaking to the Congress, only later having his speech published in the newspapers for people to read. The onset of the radio followed soon after, so in this sense, Wilson’s speech is the last one unmarked by the effect of broadcast media. Twenty four years later, Roosevelt’s declaration of war against Japan was broadcast by radio to millions of listeners. Both speeches differ greatly not only because of the circumstances of each conflict but because “no other medium changed the everyday lives of Americans as quickly and irrevocably as radio.” (Horten, p. 1) A major milestone was the “outbreak of World War I … [which] created a powerful new dynamic in the development of radio in the United States. (Craig, p. 5) Interestingly, Wilson’s first speech broadcast via radio was the one following the declaration of war on Germany – when he spoke from a ship to U.S. troops going to war on board other ships.
It was “President Hoover in the 1920s who hired the first radio speech consultant.” (Craig, p. 149) And when in 1939 people were asked whether they got most of their news from the radio or the newspaper, over “60% of respondents mentioned the newspaper and 25% mentioned the radio. By 1945, the roles had been reversed” (Horten, p. 14) The following graph (Image 4.4) documents the ratio of income and radio ownership, confirming the growing impact of radio on American audience.
Radio developed massively and quickly, and in 1941 “by the time United States entered World War II, the strategies and narrative devices of the renewed propaganda effort seemed all too familiar. (Horten, p.17) Radio appealed to audiences and audiences appealed to politicians, who in turn became increasingly more skilled in hitting just the right pause and finding just the right sound bite to catch the attention and the hearts of that audience. Amazingly, it was radio, which “established the basic structure of broadcasting within which television is still operating,” and which also established the speech strategies for mass media used by politicians. (Horten, p.1)