The year-old Protestant Radio Commission and the University of Chicago held a joint Religious Radio and Television Workshop, August 1-26, in the theological seminary building at Chicago University. Attendance was by invitation only, and it was my privilege to attend. Some thirty leading Protestant clergymen, engaged in radio work from all sections of the United Sfates, Canada, and South America, were present. A concentrated dose of script writing, production, dramatics, religious news reporting, and television was the program. The staff was made up of some of the most outstanding men in America in their field, among them Albert Crews, author of Professional Radio Writing and Radio Production, who taught classes in both writing and production. Mr. Crews was production director of NBC for many years, and chairman of the radio department at Northwestern University. He has just returned from having directed radio under General MacArthur for two and a half years in Japan.
Others on the staff included Dr. Ross Snyder, associate professor of religious education at the University of Chicago ; Everett C. Parker, director of program§ and production, Protestant Radio Commission ; George William Smith, professor of speech, McCormick Theological Seminary; Miss Olga B. Hiller, director of radio education, Board of Education, Flint, Michigan ; IVIiss Elinor Inman, formerly director of religious broadcasts, Columbia Broadcasting System ; Harold J. Quigley, radio chairman, Troy Council of Churches, Troy, New York, and broadcaster of Religion in the News ; and Mr. Reinald Werrenrath, director of television and production, NBC, Chicago.
The daily program consisted of a general meeting and listening session, morning and late afternoon. Two study groups also met each day, morning and afternoon. The groups terminated their project each week and made it possible for each one at the workshop to cover every field presented, if desired. The projects included "Talks Program," "Dramatic Program," "Reporting Religion in the NeWs," "Interviewing," "Script Writing," "Advanced Script Writing," "Production,' and "Educational Programs for Schools."
Every project had to be carried through to the final production. All writing had to be creative and done on the spot. No former scripts could be used. Each one had to be writer, speaker, actor, announcer, engineer, and producer. He did not necessarily have to act or speak or produce his own script. There was opportunity for trading about, which broadened the experience. Truly the combination of instruction and actual application under such competent guidance was potent, and it reveals why so much could be accomplished. A good working knowledge of radio was necessary, however, in order to receive the full benefits of this method.
The listening session was a critical auditioning of various programs. Hours were spent in pointing out mistakes and illustrating good radio and bad radio, how to analyze a program and how to be a good judge of material, from the listener's viewpoint. The usual point of view of the average minister at the mike is, "How am I doing?" but he ought to view his • work from the position of the listener. He usually is not "fooling anybody but himself." The best way to become a good broadcaster is to become first a good listener. Most people are poor listeners. The standard and ability to listen determines the standard and ability of broadcasting.
The general sessions, or town meetings as they were called, were taken up with lectures and discussion by various specialists in certain fields. The vice-president in charge of public affairs from ABC, New York, was there two days ; also Miss Judith Waller, director of public relations for the Central Division of NBC; and each member of the staff participated in these general sessions.
Without doubt this religious radio workshop in Chicago will continue to be the sounding board for good religious broadcasting in the United States. The industry itself is looking for these standards to be reached in the future, and we as Seventh-day Adventists must be in the forefront in our quality of radio production. The material presented in Chicago was given with the intent of passing it on to other workshops throughout the country.
The Voice of Prophecy group was able to stop over one evening during their itinerary.
It was my privilege to introduce them to the workshop. The King's Heralds sang for a half hour, and both Elder Richards and Elder Walde narrated between numbers. This did much to create a good spirit on the part of the Protestant clergy for our work. Afterward nearly all expressed themselves individually regarding the wonderful work Seventh-day Adventists are doing in radio. One of the ministers interviewed H. M. S. Richards and recorded it as his project on interviews. This was played the next day during the listening session, and it caused a lot of discussion on the beliefs and work of Seventh-day Adventists.
Individual speech correction and daily sessions on reading and phrasing were of great benefit. These were specialties of Prof. G. W. Smith. His burden, along with that of Dr. Wheeler, professor of speech at Princeton University Theological Seminary, is to teach men how to read the Bible. Every radio broadcaster should go to a speech critic at least every six months for help. Much speaking does not necessarily make a better speaker. In most cases the man whose duty calls him to speak most often is the man who needs to watch himself most closely. His habits of speech do not improve by the volume of broadcasts.
The broadcaster has two elements to deal with. They are sound and silence. It is the manner in which he composes the use of sound and silence that determines the quality of his broadcast. This involves balances, volume, pitch, and quality. The broadcaster is painting a picture in the listeners' minds as truly as one paints a picture on canvass. Perhaps the reason so many people are satisfied with the picture we create for them is that they have failed to find a broadcaster who does a better job. The moment we do that better job we not only will hold the listeners we have but will attract the listeners we have failed to reach. Religious Hooperatings indicate how few people ever tune in to a religious broadcast. Our standard of success is not judged by what we ought to be doing, but usually by what the majority are "getting by" with.
Mr. Crews emphasized the need of becoming composers instead of writers. A good script writer is actually creating a composition, whether it be a narration with music, or talks with song, or a dramatic effect with scenes and "bridges." He is not writing words—he is writing sound. Radio writing and speaking is not after the literary pattern. Speaking in the pulpit to an audience is different from preaching the same message over the air to a fireside circle. In the desk you have the addition of gesture and your own visible personality, but the two elements of sound and silence are all you possess when on the air. The question, "Where does radio happen?" is involved when deciding your program. It happens in the control room and studio. If it is a dramatic type of production, it mostly happens in the control room. A talk program happens mostly in the studio with you as the broadcaster.
Realizing you have only sound and silence, you begin to think of the reactions you want and what attitude you want to create in the mind of your listeners. There are certain fundamental facts about sound. If you wish a sound to be pleasing, you start from the top scale and come down. If you wish discomfort and alarm, you start low and end high. A siren is an example of the latter, and a fog horn an example of the first. Your music, your manner of speaking, and your pattern of time and rhythm throughout determine the quality of production. What are you building when you go on the air? There are as many rules on sound as rules on painting a picture.
During our television sessions we were asked to prepare script, and also audition television programs in the studios. Special arrangements were made so that our instructor, who produces several television programs, could demonstrate his points. There is an open field for religious telecasting, but it had better be good. Most of us are totally unprepared for it. Television adds the third element that radio does not possess—that of video. Not only must you use your sound and silence in a blend of harmony, but you have yourself to contend with. It is not certain that a successful radio performer or broadcaster will make a good telecaster.
It will not take a man so long to discover his failure on television as it does on radio. If ever a man mastered the art of capturing his living-room audience, it must be on television. Competition will be even keener for capturing an audience on television than on radio. Already there are listening hours on television where two or three outstanding programs compete for an audience. Soon the number of stations will increase in metropolitan areas, approaching the present number of radio stations. Our problem is not what is so often expressed, "We had better get into television before someone else beats us to it." Time will soon not be at a premium on television any more than on radio. Our problem is, "What are we able to present on television that will justify our being on the screen?" We are studying every new angle in order to give suggestions to our broadcasters who are interested in television. It will be to our combined interests if all who have visions of what could and should be done communicate them to the Radio Department of the General Conference.
Harold Quigley, of Troy, New York, who presented the techniques of religious news reporting, has received several national awards for his program Religion in the News. This is a Saturday night broadcast of fifteen minutes. Mr. Quigley is pastor of a church and radio chairman of Troy Council of Churches. He and his associate, a pastor of another church, prepare this weekly program. They spend about twenty hours each week in preparation for this fifteen-minute presentation. Some of•the do's and don'ts for this type of broadcast are as follows:
Don't preach to the people in your newscast; let your slant be impersonal. In interpreting the news try to echo the voices of other people who take the same position you do. Select from the week's news, gathered from all sources, as much primary material as possible on each subject. Get a balanced presentation of outstanding news, human-interest news, the unusual events that might be overlooked, but which have value to you as they are related to religion. Many of our broadcasters could secure free time and build themselves up to become interpreters of news in the light of the Bible and religion, and it would be a contribution to their community. The tack one must take for this type of broadcast is two parts serpent to one part bird—"wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove."
The workshop climaxed with a half-hour program aired coast to coast on the Columbia Church of the Air, Sunday morning, August 21. The cast was chosen from the workshop, and I was given four minutes by interview to describe the work of Seventh-day Adventists in our publicity and promotion as it related to Pastors Salau and Stewart on their recent visit to the United States. Each participating member of the cast wrote his own script, and Mr. Crews blended the total into one program that would balance in sound and silence. Our purpose in attending the radio workshop was to help us to be of better service to our S.D.A. broadcasters. We received in generous store, and we hope to pass it on generously.