Christopher H. Sterling
The American radio news commentator or analyst role came into being in the late 1930s at a time of rising world tensions that would soon lead to World War II. Commentators provide their opinions about and analysis of domestic and international affairs in news segments or programs clearly identified as comment, as distinct from reportage. They are thus the aural equivalent of newspaper columnists—and of what we would term today “op-ed” contributors. While some large-market radio stations had their own commentators in the period from 1935 to 1950, the best known were network figures. Although only a few were active in radio at any given time, at their peak around 1945 several hundred commentators could be heard on the air across the country. Within a decade, however, the majority of those who remained active had moved to television. By the 1990s, radio talk-show hosts had largely subsumed the commentary role. ...