Saturday, October 17, 2009

Media: 20 Years Ago Today

TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of the reasons that I kept this blog going in 2009 was the fact that I knew I had a lot of twenty year-old material that could be recycled. In 1989, prompted originally by extra time at home provided by snow days, I ended up recording 395 audio commentaries of about two minutes in length, a practice that I kept up, if less prolifically, for four more years until I became an undergraduate. My model for these commentaries were The Osgood Files, a set of four, two and a half minute commentaries that Charles Osgood had been producing for the CBS Radio Network since 1987 that continue to this day. (Osgood had been doing reporting and commentaries in some form for CBS since 1971.) I called my flagship commentaries "The Glitchon Files," usually recorded in the morning before school.

By chance, 1989 turned out to be a pretty incredible year to be doing commentaries on the news, with the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China, the invasion of Panama, and the fall of the Berlin Wall among major world events. Most of the time, I would write up my script ahead of time and then record it (I once even did a commentary on my routine for doing a commentary), but sometimes I would simply take out my tape recorder and try to do a coherent summary of a breaking event as information came in about it. Most often, I would do this for a report that I only did certain days that I called "Highlight," recorded in the early evening.

Such was the case twenty years ago today. Just one hour after what came to be known as the Loma Prieta earthquake took place, I did a "Highlight" report without a script, the core of which was the following:
At 5:03 pm Pacific Daylight Time today, an earthquake hit and shook up all of northern California, especially the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area. The quake was felt as far as Sacramento and 120 miles away in Fresno and has caused major damage. A fifty foot portion of the Bay Bridge has collapsed in the double-deck section. Candlestick Park itself where the baseball game was to take place seems to be structurally sound; we know that because there were so many reporters there to cover the World Series. It seems ironic that everyone was there ready to cover the world series and then another very newsworthy event occurred. There are many fires including the Berkeley Library which is on fire which is unfortunate considering what a university library contains. There are several fires in northern and northwestern San Francisco, and the Ferry Building, one of the buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake is still intact, except for its flag pole. It is unknown at this time if anyone has been injured, but it seems inevitable. There were people spotted in the bay but a Coast Guard cutter has picked them up. It's a very sad day in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The report seems rather disjointed and incorrect in its emphasis twenty years later until one considers that it was filed just an hour after event from a location about 850 miles away.

Much of the information I had reported came from the radio station that at the time called itself KCBS Newsradio 74. Local station KIRO in Seattle had chosen to directly broadcast the feed from KCBS for quite some time, giving people in the Seattle area the same information that those directly affected by the quake were receiving. Television images of the collapsed section of the Bay Bridge, and what later proved to be the collapsed "Cypress structure" of I-880 in Oakland were repeated throughout the evening, as the sun soon set on San Francisco within a couple hours of the earthquake.

While this blog in many ways is the reincarnation of "The Glitchon Files," one of the nice things about this medium is that it is much easier to cite sources in the Internet era, as many may simply be linked to, and others can be referenced with less distraction than in an audio commentary.

I've missed most of the major event anniversaries from 1989 to present again in this blog in favor of contemporary thoughts. However, don't expect that this entry will be the last to draw on my old material--there will be 20-year old material through 2013, and then it will all start being 25 years old.

No comments: