by Andy Capp
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I have given some thought to the end. I mean, at some point, one of these doomsayers is going to be right, the cosmic roulette wheel will land on their lucky number, and no one will be left for them to scream, “I told you so,” at. While I don’t personally believe that we’re less than a month away from the big good-bye, who knows what Y2K tricks some computer somewhere might have hidden up its missile silo.
It’s human nature to expect the worst, right? Despite all the amazing things we’ve collectively accomplished in the last 1,000 years, all the reflections of the past seem to dwell on the evil, the horror people do. And as for the future… what future? Just try to buy survival rations at a surplus store right now; they’ve been out for months! And how many people who have never shot so much as a rubber tipped dart gun now have an arsenal in their bedroom closet?
I hope it’s not over. We’ve had such a good start. Certainly there have been grim times, but we’ve more than just survived. We’ve gone from harnessing horses to harnessing the atom, running from the stream with water to running water, from netting fish to an Internet where we have more than our limit of red herrings. Look at the wonders left by artists, Da Vinci, Raphael, Picasso, Warhol. Read the astounding words of Shakespeare, Poe, Twain, Hemingway. Listen to the inspiring music of Mozart, Vivaldi, Gershwin, the Stones. And then there are the storytellers of the screen: Wells, Ford, Spielberg, Burton. How can we wake to the annoying drone of an alarm clock, flush our wastes away with one touch of a handle, or speed in our motorized beasts to work each day (while listening to disembodied voices and invisible musicians) and not be stunned at our progress?
Maybe that’s why the end may be near. Maybe we’ve taken all of these achievements for granted. Perhaps we are a bunch of ungrateful children, who expect what our ancestors slaved to create. For example, when was the last time you even thought about what a pain it must have been to keep beer cold before the refrigerator, or gave a silent thanks to Keith Richards for “Gimme Shelter?”
I hope it’s not over, if anything because radio still needs to find its place in history. In another 1,000 years, will anyone speak of a radio icon with the same reverence as a Di Vinci? Yes, there was the golden age of Wells and Winchell, and there have been more potty-mouthed morning show goof balls than you can shake a mic at, but are they the media’s only epitaph?
If we do have another 1,000 years to kick around this planet, I hope that radio doesn’t become one of those nostalgic novelties, like bloodletting and disco music. In a twilight of an era, when everyone seems to be saying, “Look at me,” radio can still tell the story better, can still pull emotions from deep inside the most jaded beast, can still paint a more vivid picture in the minds eye than any graphics computer could ever generate… if we let it.
It is getting harder to care. Apathy is wide spread both inside and outside the medium. The only way to make our mark is to strive everyday to do what radio does best, tell engaging stories with imagery that comes alive in the listener’s brain, with emotions that touch the heart. It can be argued that the average furniture store ad for a “The End is Near” sale doesn’t warrant such attention, or that the consolidation of radio in the final years of the century have made workloads so enormous that time has already run out. Perhaps, but if this industry is going to live well into the next millennium, someone is going to have to care. Someone is going to have to put forth the extra effort to demand better. Someone is going to do great creative project after project… and get whatever help is needed, at whatever the cost. This isn’t about making sales goals by the end of 1999. This is about a long term investment that will keep the business of radio healthy and profitable now and in the future.
At the risk of sounding like an eternal optimist, I’d like to believe that it’s still just the beginning for us, and just the beginning for this infant wireless medium. There are still so many stories to be told, so many imaginations to stimulate with the right combination of words and music and sound… we just have to do it! Of course, if certain people are right, we may just have to do it with Dixie cups and string until the power comes back up. See you next century!