June 10, 1924 – First Political Convention Broadcast on Radio

At the Republican National Convention of 1924, held in Cleveland, Ohio, arrangements were made to broadcast the convention to nine cities simultaneously, using long-distance telephone wires.

Don Moore, in an article for “Monitoring Times” magazine, reports:

To broadcast the convention, AT&T used special wires to put together a loose network of sixteen stations in twelve cities, headed by its WEAF in New York and WCAP in Washington. Never before had such a linkup been attempted, and it was a major test of both engineering and programming skill.”

There was little doubt among the attendees that Calvin Coolidge, who had become president on the death of Warren G. Harding, would be the party’s nominee for president. On the third day Coolidge was nominated on the first ballot and Brig. Gen. Chas. G. Dawes was chosen as the vice-presidential nominee. Neither Coolidge nor Dawes attended the convention, but Coolidge listened to the proceedings on the radio.

Moore recounts:

Around the country schools closed so that students could listen, radio demonstration rooms in department stores were packed with people, and sales of radios sets hit record levels. For the first time, the American people were able to look in on a national political convention.”

The radio broadcast, Moore opines, was credited with focusing people on the election and bringing out a huge number of voters.

Ironically, Moore suggests that “with so many listeners focusing so intently on a speaker’s message, truthfulness became very important.” Well, not so much anymore. See, for example, the article “The death of truth: how we gave up on facts and ended up with Trump” in the U.K. Guardian, in which Michiko Kakutani observes:

For decades now, objectivity – or even the idea that people can aspire toward ascertaining the best available truth – has been falling out of favour. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s well-known observation that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” is more timely than ever: polarisation has grown so extreme that voters have a hard time even agreeing on the same facts. This has been exponentially accelerated by social media, which connects users with like-minded members and supplies them with customised news feeds that reinforce their preconceptions, allowing them to live in ever narrower silos.”

In any event, you can read all of Moore’s analysis of the first political convention radio broadcast, online here.

Crowd gathered outside of the Public Auditorium in Cleveland during the convention listening on radio

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