Waking Up To Radio


radioEarly in the morning, the sound of radio comes on in households across the United States. Far more easy on the ears than the usual “beep – beep – beep” of the built in alarm and customizable to music, news, or other content, the clock radio is our morning companion as we groggily wobble towards the coffee pot (or at least that’s what my mornings are like).

The really notable mornings come when you are awakened by the radio news and are suddenly immersed in a moment of history. Waking up to NPR in the mornings was very much like that for me during the six weeks of our “exile” after Hurricane Katrina.

David Hinckley, a staff writer at The New York Daily News, was the one to put me in mind of these early morning moments in a recent column. He describes eloquently the early morning fog that many out, including me, suffer upon first arising. The way that the information slowly begins to seep in as the coffee takes hold and eyes begin to focus for the first time of the day.

Then he brings his own anecdote of this nature, hearing Don Imus talking about Senator Ted Kennedy’s death the night before:

Don Imus has talked about Kennedy for years. But this time, he didn’t say the name with annoyance or exasperation, so it was clear something was different. By the time 30 or 60 seconds had passed and some of the cobwebs were falling away, newsman Charles McCord was talking about reactions, and it was clear what had happened.

What this called to mind for me was the June morning in 1968 when WDRC woke me up, around 5:30, with the more chilling report that Sen. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated.

Same cobwebs, same fragmentary phrases, same sense that today something was different, and not better.

Whether you wake up to to music, news or talk, you remember those mornings.

It’s one more way in which radio seeps deeper into our lives than any other medium.

I spend my mornings switching back and forth between NPR and commercial music stations while I work on my deadlines. If talk becomes distracting, I switch to music, and if I need inspiration or ideas I listen to news.  It adjusts to my day with the touch of a remote control.

Still, it is that first dose of radio in the morning that is the first thing I miss when camping out or otherwise out of range (something I’m glad to say is harder and harder to do in the age of streaming- and FM-enabled phones).

Mr. Hinckly has made an excellent observation when he talks about radio seeping deeper into our everyday lives than any other medium.  I think that it is this ubiquity that creates a perception problem for radio. After all, if something is always around, you don’t think about it much; electricity is another good example of this.  Some things permeate our existence and radio has been one of those things since at least the 1950s.

Walk by a construction site, you’ll hear a boom box. Wake up in the morning, its probably a clock radio. Driving to work? I’ll bet the radio is on. Let it seep into you.

Image: back_garage/ / CC BY 2.0

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