Remarks to the Ohio Association of Broadcasters in Columbus

October 24, 1984

Well, thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. As a former local broadcaster, let me tell you that it's good to be among the members of my former profession.

Coming in here, I couldn't help but reminisce and think about my first job at WOC, Davenport, Iowa. I don't know how -- I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was. But it's not true that I was hired by Marconi. [Laughter] And it's similarly false that William Paley and David Sarnoff were my desk assistants. [Laughter]

But seriously, I look back on my years of local broadcasting as among the best in my life. Local is where you learn, and local is where you're introduced to the realities of the business.

And I was hired to broadcast some Big Ten football games at WOC. And that went well. I played football for 8 years. But when the season ended, then they put me on as a staff announcer which, as you know, meant long hours of playing records and reading commercials and cutting in and out of network programs.

But once a week, late at night, we would present a program of romantic organ music. [Laughter] And one night I was scheduled to be on duty for that particular program. Now, the music was provided by a local funeral home. [Laughter] And these shows were a kind of semicommercial. We got the music free, and the funeral home got a discreet plug at the end of the show.

Unfortunately, no one informed me of the direct financial relationship between the music and the sponsor in this, my first being on duty for that particular program. And my dramatic instinct just sort of rebelled at mentioning a mortuary after ``Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes.'' [Laughter] So, I happily played the music and didn't do the plug.

The mortuary was not amused. [Laughter] And I was informed that I would be replaced. Well, I learned my lesson, and so things turned out that I stayed on. And I haven't had to face removal since -- a record that I hope to continue this year.

Local radio and television stations are growing in influence, but they're still providing a valuable training ground for young journalists and broadcasters. This is where they learn how to do their jobs.

You see some of my friends over there -- Sam Donaldson, Bill Plante, Chris Wallace. I believe it was on a network affiliate that Sam learned to yell. [Laughter]

But, of course, when I started there was no radio newscasting. That was declared unfair in the Fair Trade Practices Act. But it came later, and I did some of that -- always limited to sports news.

But I'm happy to be here with all of you, anyway. I know that many of the facts of broadcasting are changing. This is a time of movement and change in your industry. The advent of cable has changed the realities, and deregulation is affecting your industry.

Beyond that, I think I sense this year something new on the scene. It seemed to me that local radio and TV stations covered this year's national political convention with an intensity beyond anything they've done in the past. Stations throughout the country were sending their own teams of reporters and producers and camera men and women. And they were competing with the networks for the story. And I see this as a good sign. It's not only an indication of the growing importance of local news coverage, it also, I think, promises greater variety in terms of what stories get covered and from what point of view. And it's my hope that this trend will turn out to be in the public interest.

We've lost an awful lot of daily newspapers in this country in the past few decades. And if it turns out with time that local TV and radio fill the gap in terms of offering alternative news outlets, well, then that'll be a very good thing, indeed.

We at the White House have noted, by the way, that local broadcasters are much more visible than they once were. In the last 5 years, Washington bureaus representing local stations have increased from about 15 to around 50. And we have at the White House a Media Relations Office to serve the needs of local stations and help them in whatever way we can, in various ways.

As your importance grows as disseminators of information, so the responsibility in all of you grows to be fair and balanced in your coverage. I know that all of you put a premium on fairness, and I urge you as you're bringing young people up through the ranks to be as stern with them about impartiality as you are with yourselves. The public -- your ultimate clients -- recognizes fairness and balance and respects it. I have great admiration for how local broadcasters do their jobs. I know you're in a very tough and demanding profession. I certainly found it so.

You know, it's just awful -- I'll have to control myself because the urge to reminisce -- I remember broadcasting a major league baseball game, a telegraphic report. Ninth inning, the Cubs and Cards, tied up nothing to nothing. And I saw the fellow on the other side of the window, my contact, with the earphones on, start to tap out the message he was getting. It came through to me, and I had Dizzy Dean on the mound and I had the ball on the way to the plate. And the message said -- [laughter] -- the wire's gone dead. [Laughter]

Well, ninth inning, and in those days with a half a dozen different stations broadcasting the same game, I decided I wasn't about to call for an interlude of transcribed music. [Laughter] I set an all-time record for a single batter standing at the plate and hitting successive foul balls. [Laughter] I don't know how long it took, but I was sweating. [Laughter] And I knew by that time that if I ever had to give in and say the wire'd -- they'd know that I hadn't been broadcasting exactly the facts up till then. And finally I saw Curly start typing. So, I started another ball on the way to the plate, and then I got to giggling when the slip came through -- I could hardly say -- he said, ``Jurges popped out on the first ball pitched.'' [Laughter]

Well, good luck to all of you, and God bless all of you. And thank you very much for letting me at least come in here and participate for a few minutes. And I'll promise not to reminisce anymore. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. in the Governor's Ballroom at the Hyatt on Capitol Square Hotel.