National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith has a somewhat unique vantage point when it comes to journalism, according to a report in Inside Radio. He has been on the other side of the microphones and cameras, having spent a dozen years as a Republican Senator from Oregon. At a time when some politicians are attacking journalists as “enemies of the people” and purveyors of “fake news,” Smith said he has seen first-hand “the value” of local and network news.
“I’ve witnessed the selfless acts of courage exhibited by journalists covering wars, natural disasters and COVID-19,” he told the NAB New York Show on Wednesday. “I truly believe that in the soul of every broadcaster beats the heart of a public servant.”
NAB lobbyists often say the message the industry presents in Washington is not partisan, a feature that has helped the trade group achieve success regardless of which party was in power. Smith told the gathering of journalists that local broadcasters “provide a window to a community, a nation and a world” as well as beaming live, local and lifesaving information to Americans during an emergency.
“I like to say that broadcasting is America’s indispensable communications medium. Available to all, regardless of income, rural or urban, Republican or Democrat,” said Smith, who became head of the NAB in 2009. “And unlike our competitors – our programming comes free of charge. Our listeners and viewers know they can count on their local broadcasters to provide the news they trust most and to be their eyes and ears at the most pivotal events in history.”
Smith’s comments came during the Library of American Broadcasting’s 100th Anniversary of Broadcasting event, which was staged as a slickly produced video available for on-demand streaming.
“The beginnings of broadcasting had many pivotal moments. A widely recognized milestone was the first commercial broadcast a century ago when KDKA radio in Pittsburgh covered the 1920 Warren Harding–James Cox presidential election returns,” said Smith. “Little did the legendary KDKA engineer Frank Conrad know what an impact that broadcasting would have on so many lives.”