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The First Wave

The first revolution was launched nearly seven decades ago when radio was in its infancy and the founding father of CBS, William S. Paley, made the decision to give his struggling new network a strong identity in the area of news and public affairs.

To a large extent, that decision was prompted by necessity. At the time, NBC – the older and far more powerful network – completely dominated entertainment programming and had a tight hold on almost all the big sponsors.

Faced with that situation, Paley chose to concentrate on news and information programs. It was the start of an enduring commitment that, over the years, greatly helped CBS build its reputation as "the Tiffany of networks."

The first major step toward establishing a solid news operation came in 1930 when Paley hired two savvy editors from the world of print journalism. Ed Klauber and Paul White are names that don't resonate much today, but serious students of broadcasting history are well aware that they are the true pioneers of radio news at CBS.

In building the CBS news department from scratch, Klauber and White brought to the new medium of radio the best traditions of print journalism and imposed those standards on the newscasters they hired to work for the fledgling network.

Under their managerial leadership, the early giants of newscasting flourished. The first stars of network journalism in America were such men as H.V. Kaltenborn, Elmer Davis, Robert Trout, and John Daly, all of whom were part of the CBS team that had been assembled by Klauber and White.

Nevertheless, it was a hard, uphill climb as radio news struggled to become something more than a weak stepchild of print journalism. With limited resources and manpower, there was very little original reporting, and when the newscasters went on the air from their studio booths, they had to rely almost entirely on the wire services for their source material.

Next: A Fortunate Accident


Written by Gary Paul Gates

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