Published Date

November 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 90: GI Radio Roundtable (1944)

Yours is, in many ways, the key job in establishing a G.I. Radio Roundtable. You will not find it as simple to handle as, say, a local variety broadcast or a record request program, but you will have strong allies in your job. First, there are the troops themselves. Surveys show that a keen desire exists among service men and women for full information about all major issues of current history. There is vital interest  in ideas and the exchange of ideas. Another ally you will find valuable is the Information-Education Officer. He can be of help in many ways, particularly in obtaining necessary approvals and clearances which are required for a discussion program. It is essential that a proper clearance channel be established at the very beginning.

Most radio roundtable discussions are, of course, broadcast ad lib—that is the most effective method. Occasionally they are broadcast from a script, although this may destroy spontaneity. Another method is to record an ad lib discussion, then broadcast the recording. Where equipment is available this is a very desirable method, and is strongly recommended.

If you do make recordings of your roundtable discussions, be sure to send the records afterwards to Armed Forces Radio Service, 6011 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles 38, California. When a sufficient number of effective G.I. Radio Roundtable recordings are on hand, Armed Forces Radio Service will consider releasing pressings to its outlets throughout the world as a continuing program feature. What the men in the Pacific, or Burma-India, or the European Theater, or the Arctic, or the Persian Gulf, or Africa, or South or Central America are thinking about should be of interest in all theaters.


Getting the Right Participants

If and when you have permission to go ahead with a G.I. Radio Roundtable, you’re sure to find many people in your area—soldiers, sailors, marines, nurses, officers, and others—who will be a gold mine of material for your program. Pick people who have ideas and some facts to support them. Look for interesting voice personalities. Pick people with different backgrounds, who’ll bring a wide range of viewpoints to your program. For a roundtable on “What kind of education should my children have?” you might choose:

Someone who had to leave school early to go to work.

A farm boy who attended rural school.

Someone who went to school in another country.

A college man.

Someone who only values a vocational or professional education.

Check through the “20” cards and find the variety of men you need. There’ll be lawyers, economists, historians, teachers, welders, farmers, mechanics. The variety of people in the services is your greatest asset in organizing a G.I. Radio Roundtable.

Picking a Chairman

Besides alert participants you should generally have a chairman, sometimes called a moderator or discussion leader. He shouldn’t be in the spotlight much, but his role is important. The program hasn’t much chance of being satisfying to the listener unless it has skillful organizing behind it. A good chairman ran keep the discussion from sticking in one rut, from getting lost in side issues, from running down hill from working up into a meaningless dogfight, and from being monopolized by any one participant. Though some radio discussion programs don’t use a chairman, a chairman is strongly recommended for any G.I. Radio Roundtable. More later on how he does his job.

Producer, Writer, and Others

You should generally have a producer or director to handle such problems as keeping discussers the right distances from the mike and getting the program off on time.

You may want a writer to prepare openings and closings. You may also find advantage in having someone do research, dig up a collection of facts to serve as basis for the discussion. A researcher will also be handy in helping to choose subjects.

Facts, Facts, Facts

It is a good idea to pick topics on which the participants have information, or on which information can be found where you are. On most important current issues there will be some books available, as well as magazine articles. Then there are the G.I. Roundtable Education Manuals already referred to, especially prepared to provide background data for group discussions. They deal with such topics as:

Can We Prevent Future Wars?

Do You Want Your Wife to Work After the War?

Our Chinese Ally

Our British Ally

What Shall Be Done with the War Criminals?

What Has Alaska to Offer Postwar Pioneers?

The Balkans

Will There Be Work for All?

Shall I Build a House?

What Future for the Islands of the Pacific?

Manuals on new topics, national, international and social, are brought out frequently. These pamphlets are prepared by leading authorities for the Historical Service Board of the American Historical Association, and are published by the War Department as numbered Education Manuals. Armed Forces Radio Service outlets and Information-Education Officers still receive a sample distribution of each as it comes out, with instructions for requisitioning additional copies.

What is a good subject?

The picking of interesting, challenging subjects is worth a lot of thought. Whether you choose a subject from the G.I. Roundtable pamphlets, get suggestions from the men, or make up your own, be sure the topic is worded in a challenging way. A title like “Postwar Employment of Women” won’t excite much interest. “Do You Want Your Wife to Work After the War?” makes it sound more like a problem that may affect you personally. But be sure you don’t word your subject in a way that stacks the cards for one point of view.

The program pattern

Discussion programs have various formulas, and you may want to experiment. Some programs consist of discussion from beginning to end, among a group of three, four, or occasionally more. The University of Chicago Roundtable is of this type. People’s Platform is similar, adding a chairman. Some discussion programs begin with a short prepared statement of 2 to 5 minutes from each speaker, representing his views, and then break into discussion. The American Forum of the Air represents this type. If an audience is present, the final part of the program may be given over to questions from the audience, as on America’s. Town Meeting of the Air. These types all have varying features. But the purpose behind all is to exchange ideas and information, and to test competing theories through discussion.

Audience participation in general

Whatever the basic type of your particular program, if adequate studio facilities are available, you may find it desirable to have an audience for the discussion and to call for questions from the floor. If the question period is to be included in the actual broadcast, the program should be scheduled for a minimum of 45 minutes, or preferably a full hour. A warning about questions is in order. Your audience should be informed beforehand that there are certain accepted rules for the handling of questions. The principal rule is that the questioners must not argue points with the principal speakers. Questions should be as short as possible and be directed to a specific speaker. Normally, the questioner is not allowed a rebuttal, in case he may disagree with the answer, nor should he be permitted to get away with the old trick of talking for 3 minutes on his own pet “beef” and then finish his remarks with the words, “ … isn’t it?” Questions must be questions—not orations with question marks tacked on.

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