Cover image for Listening in : radio and the American imagination, from Amos 'n' Andy and Edward R. Murrow to Wolfman Jack and Howard Stern
Listening in : radio and the American imagination, from Amos 'n' Andy and Edward R. Murrow to Wolfman Jack and Howard Stern
Douglas, Susan J. (Susan Jeanne), 1950-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Times Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xv, 415 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HE8698 .D687 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HE8698 .D687 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Susan Douglas, author of the much praisedWhere the Girls Are, explores how radio -- how we listened, where we listened, and whom we listened to -- has influenced the national psyche.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Douglas makes "the first attempt at an overview of radio's nearly hundred-year history since" Eric Barnouw's three-volume History of Broadcasting in the United States (1966^-70). She is primarily occupied with the history of radio programming and its audience. Today listeners are stratified not only by narrowly defined program formats but also by technology: music fans gravitate to FM, while news and talk enthusiasts go for the crackling immediacy of the AM band. Chapters like "The FM Revolution" and "Talk Talk" flesh out specific factors in this bifurcation. The rise of FM sprang from "a complete audio revolution" in the late 1960s and early 1970s that captured listeners suddenly interested in hearing "music in a richer, clearer, more complex fashion." The cultural and political effects of talk radio have been much commented on. Douglas takes a comprehensive view of that phenomenon, which fleshes out her "archaeology of radio listening from the 1920s to the present" in fine fashion. Notable for depth of presentation and readability, this is one radio book that goes beyond nostalgia. --Mike Tribby

Publisher's Weekly Review

Tracing radio's development from the early days of wireless to the shock jocks and NPR commentators of the '90s, Douglas (Where the Girls Are) delivers a carefully researched and well-documented look at the medium and the people who listened. Although Douglas's prose can be sluggish, occasionally mired in statistics, her subject matter is always engaging. She finds that each new technological innovation in radio was pioneered by amateurs, resisted by the mainstream media, made popular by a daring few and finally watered down and exploited by commercial interests. Douglas's main interest is not in the innovations themselves, however, but in how they affected the Americans who were listening to shows from Victor Lopez's jazz band broadcasts in the '20s to Eddie Cantor's Chase and Sanborn Hour in the '30s; Alan Reed's mixed-race rock 'n' roll broadcasts in the '50s; "White Rabbit" on KSAN in San Francisco in the late '60s; Larry King in the '80s; and Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh in the '90s. She shows us how radio has opened up new worlds, and how its persistent presence (in the kitchen, in the car, at work) continues to influence the nation despite being taken for granted. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It's not just video that killed the radio star but images in general (e.g., TV, the Internet), says Douglas (media and American studies, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor). Douglas argues that through radio Americans can still revive their imaginations. Her thesis will seem obvious to older generationsÄthat listening to the radio shaped the American psyche socially, politically, and economicallyÄbut the generations raised on MTV, CNN, ESPN, and personal computers must still be convinced. It may be difficult to draw their attention to a book with only eight photos, but Douglas re-creates the wonder of having an invisible friend (or enemy) in forgotten and fading stars like Jack Benny, Edward R. Murrow, Harry Caray, and Alan Freed. Unfortunately, today radio belongs to overstuffed "suits," overplayed singles, and pinched formats, which can musically and geographically "resegregate" people. Douglas points out that listeners are partly to blame for radio's dismal state. Owners are simply trying to air what their audiences want, but listeners are sending mixed messages: they want variety but lack the imagination to accept it on one station. A persuasive study of the power that radio has had and can still have; essential for all communications collections.ÄHeather McCormack, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.