Thursday, July 23, 2009

RADIO CRITIC WANTED by Robert John Landry

Editor's Note: Show biz pub Variety editor and writer and CBS radio director Robert John Landry wrote two books in the 1940s about radio. The excerpt below from Landry's first book, Who, What, Why Is Radio?, lays out his take on the necessary qualifications for a radio critic. Though written more than 65 years ago, Landry's words still ring true for those attempting criticism—to, as he says, "capture the essence of merit"—of radio in the early 21st century. -Ed.

The radio critic, if and when the breed develops, would need fairly exceptional gifts of perspective. Being neither too serious, the glaring fault of pedagogues, nor too flippant, perhaps a tendency of journalists, the critic would have to have a sense of relationship and proportion developed far beyond that of the early radio editors, who were often former radio technicians and hence could hardly hear the programs because of sheer fascination with the mechanics of transmission. Above all, the radio critic would face an obvious but important fact—it is easy to dissect the mediocre, difficult to capture the essence of merit.

A qualified corps of radio critics would certainly enhance the dignity of radio programs and help elevate standards by spot-lighting the shoddy, the careless, the incompetent, and praising the opposites. Public praise is the greatest known stimulant to professional pride among all who deal in creative or semi-creative enterprises. Individual radio critics, publicly labeled as such, and themselves subject to the responsibility and integrity of their task, would have a clarifying influence unlike that of the present pressure-group, axe-grinding criticism which promotes confusion and is by its very motivation incapable of inspiring anything more than resentful defensive measures from the entrepreneurs.

Perhaps some day we may see under classified ads something to this effect:

RADIO CRITIC WANTED—Must be gentle, understanding, fond of children’s programs, devoted to the finer things yet capable of listening to claptrap sympathetically. Should be socially conscious by no business-hater, should have working familiarity with the classics, the lower middle class, the consumer movement and the Crossley Report. He must be high-minded, yet possessed of humor; he must modify his boldness with discretion; he must know acting, directing, advertising, merchandising and orchestrating and should know about public interest, convenience and necessity. Finally he should be free of bias, a master literary stylist and willing to work for small wages. Also willing to arrange free talent for the publisher’s pet charity and relieve switchboard operator at lunch hour.

From Who, What, Why Is Radio? by Robert John Landry.
Originally published in 1942 by George W. Stewart, Publisher, Inc., New York.

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