Sunday, November 02, 2008

Long-Distance Runners Linked by Radio

I DON'T RUN OR EVEN JOG, but I do appreciate the tradition of the New York Marathon. It highlights the role of the Five Boroughs as the place where people of the world can live, work, and even sweat side by side. Oddly, I prefer to monitor it over the radio, usually over WCBS 880. The unity of coverage—from course-side reporters, the traffic chopper, commentators at the start and finish, even CBS employees running the race—reminds me that there's a clear line of heritage between this teamwork and the global links that CBS established 70 years ago between correspondents across America and Europe to document the march of Nazism across the Continent.

We think of something like today's Marathon coverage as a routine link of technology, but whether it's a simple radio signal streaming through my little portable, a remote broadcast from the WFMU Record Fair, or a debate spanning three continents on NPR, I marvel at the phenomenon. Maybe that's why I prefer the audio coverage; like the Marathon, it's got a tradition and a heritage. Even amid Internet radio streams and increasing corporate concentration of frequency ownership, they still all stem from vibrations in the air and signals along the wire. It would be sad to overlook the wonder behind the technology.

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