Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


October 23, 2012

Random Thoughts: Words are tough

CROSSVILLE — Elections live on words. Politics and poker may play their part but it is the words filled with promises that hooks the voter. As this new country developed, people flocked to election events for the entertainment, better known as “politickin.” As time marched on new ways of communicating developed and were eagerly embraced by politicians. They were able to reach millions of voters with one message on radio and later television.

Words were always important and in this election of 2012 words are being closely parsed for hidden meanings. To avoid costly word mistakes in speeches, politicians began using a new machine that came on the market in 1950. Although hidden from the listener’s view it gave the appearance the politician was speaking “off the cuff.” This innovation was a teleprompter and the correct words in the speech were scrolled before the eyes of the speaker.

An actor, Fred Barton, Jr., came up with the idea of a machine that would help television actors perform large amounts of material without memorizing. TV executive Irving Berlin Kahn, nephew of Irving Berlin, liked the idea and an electrical engineer, Hubert Schafly, Jr., built the teleprompter. First used on the set of a soap opera in 1950 it was a helpful tool. By 1953 Lucy and Desi Arnez , Johnny Carson and news shows were using it.

The machine uses a video camera with a shroud surrounding the lens of clear glass to keep light from reflecting into the lens. There is a video monitor reflecting the words on the screen to the eyes of the speaker by a specially prepared glass called a beam splitter. Last is the image of the subject and the image from the video monitor.

During the 1952 Republican National Convention Herbert Hoover is believed to be the first politician to face a teleprompter. It was not a happy meeting because about half way into the speech he spoke slower and slower and finally muttered, “I could do better without it!”            

Although Hoover considered it “that blasted inconvenience,” most of our presidents have continued to use the help. The teleprompter needs a human partner to operate the knob which scrolls the speech to the monitor. However, that job is much more important than turning a knob because that person becomes the prompter. He must determine the speed to scroll and stay in sync with the speaker. Most prompters study the speaker’s speech patterns beforehand and silently say the words in time with the orator.

The well-seasoned prompters now have a small business and are important in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Prompters usually prompt the same persons. One prompter was assigned to Gov. and Mrs. Romney and Ryan during the Tampa Convention.  Often the prompter’s politics differs from that of the speaker.  Several will admit they realize after they have finished that the speech was filled with words they didn’t believe but they were working for money.

President Barack Obama’s reliance on the teleprompter became apparent during the 2008 campaign and was mentioned often. Republican Rick Santorum called Obama the “reader-in-chief.” Several years ago a top White House aide was heard to say, “It’s not fair to the President that he not have his teleprompter.”

Important as this device has proved to be it has always maintained its humility. From the very beginning the ‘t’ has never been capitalized. A computer teleprompter was introduced in 1982 and in 2010 the Compu=Prompt Co. received the Technical & Engineering Emmy for “Pioneering Development in Electronic Promptings.”

A simple idea grew into a necessary ingredient for giving an error-free speech. Words are important, especially when they are correct.


Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar