You Are There

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Overview | Significance | Background | Plot | Cast | Resources | Episodes

Overview

You Are There (1947-1950) was an OTR documentary / drama series acclaimed for its dramatizations of historical events using the international Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) news staff.

Significance

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was noted for experimental, risky, and innovative radio programs that encouraged innovation to promote compelling storytelling. The Columbia Workshop, The Mercury Theatre on the Air, and You Are There are excellent examples.

You Are There took every effort to accurately simulate historical events as they unfolded, as if they were reported live by a modern radio news organization with a staff of international correspondents. Each episode was presented as a live broadcast, with roving reporters offering real time analysis. The historical information was accurate, the narrative believable, the dialogue in character. Relying on verified historical facts, sound effects, and the professional CBS news staff, You Are There provided the most detailed descriptions and narratives heard on radio. The intended result was to make listeners feel present at the event, hearing it unfold. Episodes of You Are There were realistic, believable, and provided immersive experiences for listeners.

From 1940 through the early 1950s, radio news dramatizations were phased out and replaced with news actualities. Today, listeners can still appreciate the power of scripted dialogue, sound effects, and their own imaginations to provide a time travel experience, placing them at the scene of important historical events around the world. Listeners are not simply listening to adaptations of historical events, they are participating in transhistorical narrative events.

Several audio transcriptions from the CBS television series You Are There, hosted by Walter Cronkite, were broadcast by the American Forces Radio and Television Services (AFRTS).

Background

All things are as they were then, except, when CBS is there, YOU are there!

In the early days of radio, live, on-the-scene radio news broadcasting was technologically difficult, if not impossible. Seeking to attract listeners, radio producers sought ways to make their news broadcasts more engaging.

The idea for a news dramatization series may have began in 1928 at radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Fred Smith used material from Time in his broadcasts. Later, Smith and Roy E. Larsen, the first circulation manager for Time, developed their own program, called Newscasting. This program evolved into The March of Time, the first network news dramatization series.

March of Time (broadcast on CBS, 6 March 1931-26 July 1945), is the pioneer news dramatization series. Actors reenacted memorable news of the week. This excerpt from the 5 October 1934 episode, providing dramatized interviews by Westbrook Van Voorhis with General Hugh Samuel "Iron Pants" Johnson, Director of the National Recovery Administration from 16 June 1933 until his firing by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in September 1934, and Bruno Richard Hauptmann, arrested 19 September 1934 for the 1 March 1932 kidnapping and subsequent killing of the 20-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is a good example.

You Are There continued this legacy. Created by Goodman Ace (noted for Easy Aces) for CBS, each thirty-minute episode of You Are There was designed to bring past historical events to radio audiences. But, rather than simply dramatizing these events, episodes were presented as new broadcasts, complete with an on-the-scene team of reporters.

John Daly and Don Hollenbeck, noted for their overseas reporting during World War II, and other distinguished reporters, narrated episodes as live reports of current events, complete with real time analysis. Some episodes featured Major George Fielding Eliot, CBS' military expert.

You Are There was designed as a summer replacement program for the Lux Radio Theater. The first episode was broadcast 7 July 1947 as part of the CBS Is There series. With episode #28, 2 May 1948, the name was changed to You Are There. The last episode was broadcast 9 July 1950.

Stroke of Fate, a 1953 news dramatization series, with each weekly episode providing an alternate history based on fateful decisions or accidents, drew on the legacy of You Are There. Thirteen episodes survive.

Plot

Each episode involves CBS news reporters in a dramatic reporting of an historical event. The events are reported and analyzed live, on the scene. The effect is have listeners feel as if they are present, witnessing the event as it unfolds.

Cast

Cast varied by episode.

Resources

You Are There radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Episodes at Internet Archive website
Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website
The Definitive CBS Is There / You Are There at Digital Deli Too website

Episodes

Totals

Total episode: 90 (64 unique scripts)
Surviving episodes: 60 (+1 special episode, "CBS: The Listening Years")

Timeline

7 July 1947-9 July 1950
Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)

Inventory

Information and description for each episode of the series. Learn more.

Exemplary Episodes

The first three surviving episodes and the special episode, "CBS: The Listening Years."

  • Episode 2

    The Storming of the Bastille
    Episode 02, 14 July 1947
    Repeated as Episode 11, 28 December 1947
    Event date: 14 July 1789. AKA "The Citizens of Paris before the Bastille"

  • Episode 5

    Sir Francis Drake Defeats the Spanish Armada
    Episode 05, 4 August 1947
    Repeated as Episode 16, 1 February 1948
    Event date: 29 July 1588. With Harry Marble, Ernest Chappell, and John Daly

  • Episode 6

    The Defense of The Alamo
    Episode 06, 11 August 1947
    Repeated as Episode 15, 25 January 1948
    Event date: 6 March 1836

  • Episode **

    CBS: The Listening Years
    Special broadcast, 6 November 1947
    Although presented in the form of a CBS Is There episode, this special broadcast to commemorate National Radio Week, was not part of the regular series. The program recreates coverage of great radio events, rather than the events themselves, noting listening peaks. Includes portions of three World War II broadcasts. Contents include:
    Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor, ending World War II, 1 September 1945
    First broadcast of the Kentucky Derby, 16 May 16 1931
    Prince Edward's abdication message on radio, 11 December 1936
    The Ohio State Penitentiary fire, 21 April 1930
    President Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural address, 4 March 1933
    President Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" radio address, 6 January 1941
    President Franklin Roosevelt's request for Congress' declaration of war with Japan, 8 December 1941
    A conversation between New York and London, December 1943
    A report from London on D-Day with beachhead recording by George Hicks, 6 June 1944