Journal of Radio Studies/November 2006

Whither Radio
Douglas A. Ferguson
As I enter into my final year as editor of the Journal of Radio Studies, the time has come to ponder the future of the journal and the field. It is apparent that fewer pieces of radio scholarship are arriving at our editorial office, which does not bode well for our rejection rate. Manuscripts that make it through the maze of reviewers’ opinions and forthright observations have reflected very high quality, so it pains me that the first 87 submissions of my editorship have produced 35 past, present, or future acceptances. I never set out to accept 40% of manuscripts, because increased acceptance dilutes the strength of the journal. That percentage is certainly not what the Iowa Guide says about the acceptance rate of JRS, but I have no master file of numbered submissions prior to 2004 to factor. Some may criticize the editors for choosing too many articles, but others might wonder why so few manuscripts are arriving. Perhaps the move to two issues per year needs to be reconsidered, if the sole focus of the journal continues to be radio. Michael Brown is taking the editor reins soon, and I wish him the best with these perceived and sometimes real issues. It is my hope that the scope of manuscripts is broadened considerably by the change of editors. To that end, I have already announced a special topic for my final issue next year: mobile media. It is no secret among those who attend the radio division gatherings at the annual meeting of the Broadcast Education Association that I think the Journal of Radio Studies should embrace mobile media to the extent that they compete with radio. The additional manuscripts would protect the integrity of a biannual publication, for which I modestly propose the title Journal of Radio and Mobile Media. The actual decision to retitle this journal is one that I leave to others, perhaps based in part on how well the special issue is received. Radio is the first and premier mobile medium (in terms of time spent listening). From a functional standpoint, radio content really shines when listeners are moving about instead of stationary. Radio is not radio because of the device itself or the radio waves, but because radio is a ubiquitous companion that entertains and informs people away from their homes, often in their cars. Television stole the in-home audience, but radio has portability. And the listener pays no direct cost for the content of radio broadcasts. Most important, radio resonates in the hearts of many as a personal medium, a friend. The mobile functions of radio are no longer unique, however. Recently, iPods began to threaten the music entertainment function. Already the Internet, which itself has become a mobile medium, threatens the information function. The cell phone is by now the new personal companion.
© 2006 Broadcast Education Association

Journal of Radio Studies 13(2), 2006, pp. 167–168

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Journal of Radio Studies/November 2006

Change is inevitable. The newspaper industry is reeling these days from technological change, and the terrestrial television industry appears to be next. When can we expect live music and news from our cell phones and iPods? If newsprint can be replaced by handheld “roll out” celluloid screens, what is the future of radio’s portion of the electromagnetic spectrum? The issue you are reading is comforting to the traditions of the Journal of Radio Studies. Some history, some international study, some quantitative analysis, and some book reviews. Maybe in a year or two, readers can abide some study of mobile media that are functionally equivalent to radio, minus the romance of tuning frequencies, theater of the mind, and localism. Just as the Journal of Broadcasting once widened its scope, so too might the Journal of Radio Studies. As always, I welcome your thoughts and short essays.