KENNETH JOHANNESSEN
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A broadcaster must be a man of many parts.
He is an editor. A sociologist. An educator. A businessman. A showman.
A psychologist. An engineer. An advertising expert. A lawyer.
He is most especially an analyst. His success depends entirely on his ability to analyze an audience,
appraise their reactions, and key their response to substantial programming.
People watch. People listen. People know.

I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting when I was a kid. I grew up watching plenty of TV - and pretty much memorized "TV Guide" every week (there were only six channels in Seattle back then!). I really liked game shows, news and special event coverage like elections, conventions and space missions. It was the live, spontaneous aspect of it that intrigued me, I guess.

For news, we started out an NBC family; that meant "Today, "The Huntley-Brinkley Report," and all their special event coverage, like space shots, conventions and elections. But after Chet Huntley retired in 1970, we switched to ABC for the evening news (my dad liked Frank Reynolds), and stayed with NBC for everything else. I'd also watch just about every game show on back then (when I could), the hosts became my idols: Bill Cullen, Gene Rayburn, Art Linkletter (though his "House Party" was really more of a human interest show than a game), Allen Ludden, Tom Kennedy, Bob Barker and the rest. I'd marvel at what they all did, and how easy they made it seem - how they were in the center of everything; how smooth, smart and funny, how personable they were. How I wanted to be them when I grew up.

When it came to listening to the radio in Seattle, home base seemed to be KAYO, with its country music and personalities like Buck Ritchey, Bobby Wooten, Gary Vance and Ed Howell. My parents loved country music. But we did a fair amount of dial twisting as well: our radio landed at times on KIXI for "beautiful music," "contemporary" KING with an uptempo middle-of the road sound (before it changed to top-40 in 1971), even old MOR standby KOMO. So although we didn't venture into hard rock or more "highbrow" music, we were exposed to a fairly wide range of music and tastes.

I know it sounds weird, but watching the three networks had a lot to do with it as well. Back in those days, network programming was sent down telephone lines that gave both the video and audio its own look and sound. It made anything sent down the line sound important and special. And since Seattle was near the end of the line, the signals went through a lot of repeaters and amplifiers, making the "network sound" that much greater. It was far from the crystal-clear satellite-fed signal you get today. I could identify each network just from listening to the line noise, and dreamed of the day when my voice would go through those lines and have that sound added (maybe I'd sound more important and special!). But that changed in early 1978, when AT&T started using a new system that sent clearer TV signals. And when radio networks gave up land lines for satellites in the early 1980s, I was cooked. Technology's gain was my loss.

Nevertheless, I'm living my childhood fantasy. It's not on the national scale I dreamed of, although that could still happen. But being a host on a local radio station - a big fish in a little pond, so to speak, it's . . . well, it's a lot of fun!

But as the words at the top of the page hopefully convey, broadcasting is more than just announcing a record or doing a time check.



What is this thing called Radio?
(from a 1944 Blue Network print ad)

Is it that magical box of wood and wires and tubes and dials?

Yes, but radio is more . . . much more.

Radio is the farmer at eventide . . . his eyes glancing apprehensively toward the sky.

It is the mother, with "V" mail overdue, every fiber of her being awaiting word of the 5th Army.

Radio is music at the close of a hard-pressed day.

It is the speech in the town hall - given a national audience.

Radio is song and literature and statecraft - letters and manifestoes brought to the intimacy of your living room
for you to hear, digest, accept or reject.

It is the plaint of people who are suffering, and the glorious voices of free men released from slavery.

It is the cry of hunger across the seas, and the song of plenty in America.

Radio is life.

It is around the corner; it is national; it is global.

Radio is America - with sound.

Listen!


This 1952 ad by CBS was meant to explain radio's effectiveness to advertisers, but I think it says much more.

"The radio says it's going to rain."

This is probably the commonest remark made in America.
Millions of people say it every day.
You yourself are always saying it without thinking.
You heard it on the radio, so you act on it.

Actually the radio says no such thing.
It simply reports what the Weather Man says.

We wish people would think more carefully about radio.
But the fact is nobody really thinks about radio.
Any more than he thinks about
which foot to put in front of the other,
or how to blow his nose.

You can quote all the statistics you want
about radio's amazing penetration and sales impact
to prove what a great medium it is,
how much better than any other medium.
The statistics are all true and available.
But somehow they seem relatively pointless
beside the basic fact that people believe
what "the radio says."

This is the real secret of radio's power.
This is why it is listened to by more people
than any other voice in the land.
This is why it is such an accepted voice . . .
. . . such a useful voice . . .
. . . such a friendly and familiar voice.

Radio doesn't know whether it's going to rain.

Radio is only a voice - anyone's voice.

It could even be yours.


My Microphones

However, there is no voice - indeed, there is no radio - without microphones.

But ever since I was a kid, I have always liked a cool-looking microphone. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm no real audiophile, I'm not good at deciphering frequency response, bass, treble, or anything like that. I'm not good at the nuances of sound. But I have managed to collect - I think, anyway - five of the coolest-looking mics ever made.

Electro Voice EV635A

RCA BK-5A

RCA BK-12

Sony ECM-51

Superscope EC12B


My Experience on the

It was my first real experience on a network, and it was pretty interesting . . . to me, anyway! Click on the logo to find out more.


I guess I come from a different era, back when stations were required to do things like "public service." Equal time, the Fairness Doctrine, etc. These days, it seems so non-personal and profit-oriented. Much of talk radio is lost on me - loud, crude, and much less civil than it used to be. It goes against a lot of what I was taught and trained for.

  I think it can be summed up in "The Radio Broadcaster's Creed," from the now-defunct Radio Code of the National Association of Broadcasters. Though it was meant for station owners, I think it applies to hosts and announcers, too.

  Click here for "The Radio Broadcaster's Creed."

  It can also be summed up in a 1961 speech that outlines some common-sense broadcasting principles that are still true today.

  Click here for "Radio's Ten Commandments."


RADIO TOURS

Click on the pass for a quick tour of ABC Radio's New York headquarters as it was in 1989.

For pictures of NBC Radio's Talknet setup in New York, click on the logo.


Text and pictures copyright © 2013 Kenneth I. Johannessen.

The logos on this page belong to other people and companies - not to me.
No challenges to any logo, sound or image copyrights are either implied or inferred.


To return to Kenneth Johannessen's home page, click here.

This webpage was created and produced in the United States of America.

10/09/13