1926 Father Coughlin ‘On the Air’ and the rise of right wing radio
With the popularity of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and now Glenn Beck, we felt it was time to look at the ‘original,’ nationally known conservative radio talk show host, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, who organized and addressed large rallies, called for a return to God and became a leading oppositional figure for a sitting President. Father Coughlin’s reach was huge, establishing a national network of radio stations to carry his show and help him to raise funds for his preferred causes. Originally attracted by the New Deal, Father Coughlin veered right from FDR’s policies, eventually establishing ties to Nazis and anti-Semitic elements in our society. In our conversation, we look at Father Coughlin’s career to see what methods of communication and distribution he created and to compare our current group of conservative commentators in philosophy, method, and content as well as in their reach and popularity.
Dr. Sheldon Marcus is a Professor in the Division of Educational leadership and Policy of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. He has been on the Fordham faculty since 1968 and has also served as Associate Dean for 17 years. Dr. Marcus has authored or coauthored 6 books, including Father Coughlin: The Tumultuous Life of the Priest of the Little Flower.
Dr. Susan Smulyan, Professor of American Civilization at Brown University, is the author of Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting (1992) and Popular Ideologies: Mass Culture at Mid-Century (2007). Professor Smulyan teaches courses in popular culture, advertising history, radio, digital scholarship, and American Studies methods. Most recently, she held a Research Fellowship in the Scholars and Artists in Residence program at the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra.
Michael Harrison is the founder and editor of Talkers magazine, the leading trade publication serving the talk radio industry in America. He is a radio broadcasting maverick and trade journalist who has been at the center of many of the exciting pop radio revolutions of the last thirty years.
Dr. Evelyn Sterne is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at University of Rhode Island. Her book Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence (2004) is a study of the relationship between religion and political incorporation among immigrant groups in our fair city of Providence at the turn of the 20th century. Her current research interests include evangelism and working class history.
- Redeeming the Dial: Radio, Religion, and Popular Culture in America; Tona J. Hangen University of North Carolina Press. 2002
- Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression; Alan Brinkley: Alfred A. Knopf. 1982
- Marcus Sheldon. Father Coughlin: The Tumultuous Life of the Priest of the Little Flower. Little, Brown & Company. 1973
- Radio Priest: Charles Coughlin, the Father of Hate Radio; David Warren: Free Press. 1996
- Radio’s Intimate Public; Jason Loviglio: University of Minnesota Press. 2006
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