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Roosevelt seated before a microphone
Franklin D. Roosevelt, a master of timing and tone, was the first president to effectively use radio. His inimitable style of "fireside chats" built an audience for radio talk in the 1930s.
NBC fireside chat microphone
Seated before this microphone, Roosevelt imagined his listeners individually. In return, his audience believed Roosevelt was responsible for their personal well-being and improvement.
Ratings chart
Broadcast-industry executives were especially interested in quantifying radio listening. This chart, prepared by the Hooper Ratings Company, illustrates the steady growth of the listening audience for FDR's radio chats and addresses from 1936 through the first years of World War II. Advertisers used such surveys, unique to radio and then television, to determine which programs and performers would be the most effective sales tools.

Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

Colie Smith, the son of a Farm Security Administration borrower, Georgia, 1941. By the 1940s, radios were a valued and essential feature in most American homes. Young people listened as avidly as adults.

Courtesy of Library of Congress

  The new technologies of radio and television had a major impact on the way Americans received news about their political leaders. As the number of sets owned increased, print media were no longer the sole, or even the dominant, source of information.

Yet nothing has completely replaced newspapers as an important and accessible means of communication. Many people learned of Harry Truman's victory over Thomas Dewey in 1948 from a newspaper. And dailies such as the Washington Post and New York Times shaped the country's understanding and memories of the cold war, Watergate, and Operation Desert Storm.

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