NYPR Archives & Preservation
January 22, 2016 - Volume 15  Issue 04
Edition # 693


1944: News report of a water main and steam line break at 38th Street.

1952: News reports about a plane crashing into a house in Elizabeth, New Jersey and exploding.

1963: Diplomat
Adolf A. Berle and  labor leader Walter Reuther talk about the concentration of power at a meeting of the Fund for the Republic.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State was WNYC Producer

Barbara Mae Watson (1918-1983) was the first African-American and the first woman to serve as an Assistant Secretary of State. In 1944, she produced I Am Your Next Door Neighbor, a WNYC drama former Station Director Morris Novik described this way in 1945, "The family happened to be a Negro family living in Harlem and the dramas each week dealt with the problems, business, and home life of this typical family unit. The cast included white and Negro actors playing their respective roles and often interchanging roles.Tolerance and prejudice were not the theme of the series, but during the course of normal events it was brought home to the listener that there were certain evils that perhaps he was not aware of previously."

Just prior to the show's premiere in June 1944, The New York Age hailed Watson as the "first Negro radio producer in New York." While Watson was indeed early in the field, she was not the first black radio producer in the city. That distinction may actually belong to WNYC's Clifford Burdette, who hosted and produced the NAACP-sponsored "Those Who Have Made Good," on WNYC in 1941.  Nevertheless, the black newspaper reported the drama "would offer up-to-the-minute information on current issues and how they affect the contemporary Negro" and it quoted Watson as saying "the program is designed to present the common man in all of his dignity --frankly, his expressions and attitudes, the role he has played and is playing in the making of the world today." The article also noted that composer Leonard Bernstein was to be a musical consultant for the program.

Source: "Barbara Watson Becomes New York's First Negro Radio Producer Over Station WNYC," New York Age, May 27, 1944, p. 4. (1980 Portrait of Watson by John Whitman, Camera Press, London)

WNYC first day of broadcast, July 8, 1924 (Municipal Archives Collection)
When WNYC was the Competition
"In the New York area, we had little good music competition.  New York City's municipal station, WNYC, programmed some classical recorded music even in the earliest days of WQXR, but being the city station hindered it from competing successfully with us. WNYC had the civic obligation to transmit some rather humdrum  material in doing what the city thought was the station's function to let the people know the price of eggs; what the Department of Sanitation was doing to clean the city's streets; who was being honored with keys to the city at City Hall; and many so-called educational programs.

"Also WNYC was forced to rely somewhat on volunteer and sometimes amateur talent because the city fathers were not generous with the station's budget.  For those reasons, people could not rely upon a uniformly good flow of music without interruption for more mundane material. On the other hand, WNYC had one great advantage over WQXR.  The Musicians Union, for policy and political reasons, for years permitted WNYC to broadcast concerts and other musical events which were denied to us because of exorbitant union scale talent fees."*

Source: Rebel in Radio: The Story of WQXR by Elliot M. Sanger, 1973. Pgs. 104-105.

*Editor's Note: WNYC had a non-commercial waiver from Local 802 of the Musicians Union at the time.
WNYC celebrated its 91st anniversary last July. Just think, 8-and-a-half short years to the big centennial. In this space we'll be linking to various historical WNYC champions and milestones celebrating nearly a century of broadcasting in the public interest.This week: Kenneth Tynan on the Shallow American Theater.

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WNYC's Way Back series - this week: Wiseguys and Goodfellas.
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