Academic journal article Journalism History

WCFL: Chicago's Voice of Labor 1926-78

Academic journal article Journalism History

WCFL: Chicago's Voice of Labor 1926-78

Article excerpt

Godfried, Nathan. WCFL: Chicago's Voice of Labor 192678. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1997. 390 pp. $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paper.

The cartoon on the book's cover says it all. A brawny, shirtsleeve-clad worker, holding a radio labeled "WCFL" under one arm, is fending off iwth the other a mob of top-hatted, spats-wearing men, each labeled "big business," "radio commission, power trust," or "telegraph trust." Behind the besieged laborer sits a man wearing dark glasses and a sign, "deaf, dumb, blind." He is the public. Lounging against a lamppost in the background is an indifferent Uncle Sam.

The 1929 cartoon vividly depicts the early struggles of radio station WCFL, Chicago's "voice of labor," the only station in the nation owned and operated by a labor union, the Chicago Federation of Labor. Author Nathan Godfried's valuable book chronicles WCFL's life and death -an underreported aspect of mass communications history-and puts it in the context of organized labor. In the process, he describes WCFL's efforts simultaneously to challenge corporate radio and to use the airwaves in the interest of workers.

Godfried, an associate professor of history at the University of Maine, Orono, has written a well-documented and readable account that contributes to labor and broadcasting history. Of particular value are its extensive notes and bibliography. The heart of the book chronicles the efforts of WCFL's founder and guiding spirit, Edward N. Nockels, to establish labor radio in Chicago to produce entertainment and public affairs programming for the working class.

Nockels believed there should be a place for labor radio to counteract the corporate propaganda of the radio trust. He rejected the view of the radio business and the government that labor radio was merely a "special interest" like education or religious groups. …

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