Two of my passions are history and the spoken word. While these things occasionally link up with crime fiction, today’s post won’t be one of them. Here’s your free pass to leave now, if you choose.
Even though I’m a child of television, I love radio. Not just for the music, mind you, but for all the spoken word programming over the years. I adore old time radio programs, with their “visual” storytelling in a non-visual medium. I also love old time radio news programs. Hearing Edward R. Murrow describe the London blitz is sobering enough. You listen to Murrow's broadcast, you realize that pictures were just not needed when he told you how it was.
As an teen in the early 1980s, I became aware of my world through television, books, and, increasingly over the years, through radio news. I’m an NPR junkie. Once I discovered KUHF here in Houston--likely because of the “Star Wars” radio dramatizations (does everything hearken back to Star Wars?)--I was hooked. The news I got from NPR was more in-depth than the network news and it allowed for journalists to channel their inner Murrow as they described the things that they saw but we could not. It's one of my favorite things about radio news, the creative, storytelling aspect. I got to know the voices of the NPR hosts and could identify them within seconds. They became friends and trusted sources of opinion beyond my own.
One of those voices fell silent yesterday. I only knew Daniel Schorr as one of NPR’s senior news analysts. I never knew him from television. His nearly seventy years of experience lent gravitas to topics he discussed. I grew to appreciate his take on the news and found myself making time to listen to him, even if his segment was the only part of a newscast I heard. His Saturday morning discussions with host Scott Simon was a highlight of the week for me. (Plus, he said my name every week and I could almost imagine he was talking to me.) I knew what time of the broadcast they talked and tuned in (if I already wasn’t). Once NPR posted their programs on the internet, I’d seek out Schorr’s take on whatever topic in which I was interested.
For many a citizen, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted voice in America. Again, I am too young for that. If push came to shove, I’d have to say that Tom Brokaw was that guy for me, at least growing up. But Schorr’s voice was something else entirely. It had weight. It had authority. It had occasionally bouts of whimsy, as Schorr, at times, seems to be living his greatest dream come true.
That voice is now gone. I’m just thankful for the many years I got to listen to it. Saturday mornings just won’t be the same.