The Responsibility of Having a Voice.

Looking around at sunny923.com, I noticed that it had been almost a year since I last posted a blog entry.  For a while there, I had been fairly prolific, with one or two posts each month.  Given my traffic and music responsibilities at Sunny 92.3, most of the posts had ties to either roads and traffic, or the music that comes through the radio speakers.  From that beginning, many retreated into a story from my youth.  Perhaps the lack of posts in the past year can be attributed to the mere fact that I have simply run out of compelling memories to share.

 

But enough about me.  As Bruce Springsteen once sang, “…well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days…”.  

 

With the passing of Rev. Billy Graham earlier this week, I remembered an audio clip we had aired in our on-air tribute to Luther when he had passed back in 2014.  I provided a copy to James and Marta who re-aired the short clip in which Luther recounted a visit by the Billy Graham Crusade to Chattanooga back in the early 1950s.  Back then, what we now know as the Patten Towers was the Hotel Patten, and Luther had occasion to give Rev. Graham a ride to the hotel from the Crusade venue on the UC campus.  Luther had driven his Model-T Ford that day and, apparently, it was the Rev. Graham’s first ride in a Model-T.

 

Today, it is almost inconceivable that a nationally known figure would accept a ride from a random stranger, but if it were to happen, the moment would surely wind up on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc… and be shared with thousands across the globe in a matter of seconds.  The access social media grants us with the rest of the world, which we now take for granted, was only available at that time to radio, and in a few places, television hosts such as Luther.  It was one way access at best.  I imagine Luther probably spoke of the encounter on the air the following morning, which communicated the story with thousands of people, however, there was no opportunity for the listening public to immediately respond with likes and comments.  The point is that the opportunity to instantly communicate with thousands, once available to only a few, is now available to almost all of us (at least in this country), with the added opportunity for those thousands to immediately respond.

 

Consider for a moment that the time that has elapsed between Luther giving Billy Graham a ride in his Model-T and today is about 65 years.  This is roughly the same amount of time between the end of the Civil War (“the war ended and the soldiers went back to their farms”) and World War I (“the war ended and the soldiers went back to their factory jobs”).  The difference in our abilities to communicate today, even from that of 35 years ago, is as profound as the difference between the agrarian economy of the mid-19th century and the manufacturing economy of the early 20th century.  

 

So, it’s 2018 and I have a blog and perhaps you have a blog.  Some of my co-workers have podcasts.  Chances are you at least have a Facebook or Twitter page from which you share your thoughts with others.  One of the things I like the most about being a traffic reporter is that I’m rarely at a loss for things to talk about on the air.  As long as humans still drive cars and Interstates 75 and 24 intersect in Chattanooga, there will be up to the minute traffic issues for me to report.  However, my experience with having a blog has shown me that once I’ve told my boring stories of glory days, finding topics of interest to write about has become increasingly difficult.  It is much easier to find a meme or jaw-dropping news story to retweet or share.  That may work for collecting those ego-boosting likes on Facebook, but I refuse to resort to it here.

 

Unfortunately, the ease of retweeting and sharing has led to the proliferation of trolls and even foreign governments bent on disruption and division.  A term I’ve heard on the news recently is “unwitting Americans,” as in unwitting Americans spreading fake news and manufactured outrage.  One of the things that made Luther the legendary broadcaster for which he is remembered, was his respect for truth and credibility.  There’s a reason why when Luther said “snow,” grocery stores were emptied of milk and bread and schools closed their doors.  A generation of Chattanoogans, without the opportunity for messages flashed to a smartphone, had learned they could rely on the strong baritone voice that came from their radios.

 

As a broadcaster, I often think of what tremendous fortune I’ve had to have learned from Luther, as well as other professionals I’ve worked with over the years.  Now, in the age when we all have an opportunity to have our voices heard, we should all be reminded of those lessons.  Next time you’re tempted to share a shocking or politically charged story on your social media, take a moment to verify its authenticity.  Respecting your audience means respecting the truth.

Categories: Robin Daniels