News has been part of the radio since its inception. But excluding national elections, the news was limited to regional and local information. In 1932, radio broadcasters scrambled to give the listening audience as much information as possible about the "crime of the century," the Lindberg kidnapping. The local station, WOR Newark, carried the news of the Lindberg kidnapping for a couple hours before CBS and NBC could dispatch reporters to the scene. With this broadcasting feat, radio's concept of news changed.
In the six years preceding Welles' broadcast, reporters refined the style and approach of news bulletins. With radio covering the various European conflicts throughout the thirties, audiences became accustomed to the news bulletin breaking into their programs. When on-the-spot events turned violent, radio broadcasters allowed their reporters full reign of the airwaves. As with newspapers, each station hoped to "scoop" the other network with the facts. Of the listeners who checked other stations for verification of the events of that Halloween Eve, many felt CBS had simply "scooped" the other networks. With the rapid rate of deployment the Martians could gain (in relative time), the possibility of CBS "scooping" the other networks increased.
Not only did Welles duplicate the vehicle of transmission for current news, but the flavor of the broadcast resembled other well-known events from the previous year: the flooding of the Ohio and Mississippi, the Hindenburg crash, and the Explorer. In each of these events, radio broadcasters stopped transmissions to cover the events as best they could.
During the floods, networks stopped their original programming to help direct the relief efforts, keeping the nation in touch with the natural disaster and directing victims to safe areas. Though the circumstances surrounding the Hindenburg crash broadcast differed, the nation gathered around the radio to listen to the tragic replaying of the disaster. WLS in Chicago had sent reporter Herb Morrison to cover the landing of the derigible and record the crowd's reactions. This was not a live broadcast. However, the nature of the event, and Morrison's vocal talent, caused networks to reliquish their ban on playing recorded pieces in order to present the news to the listeners. The near-tragedy with the Explorer found the nation again glued to their radio sets for the latest news. Radio announcers had picked up the call of the distressed crew in the torn stratospheric observation balloon and relayed the information to Washington, D.C. where Air Corps officials were on hand to offer advice for patching the balloon at 60,000 feet. For four hours, the networks broadcast the transmissions between the crew and the rescuers.
Certain portions of the Mercury Theatre broadcast were almost exact replicas of these famous reports. The actor who played Carl Phillips, the reporter, sat and listened repeatedly to the Hindenburg crash recording to add to the authenticity of his acting. Radio's reliability as a news medium had the policemen on October 30, 1938 telling people to listen to the radio for the latest news, as the broadcasters had more information than the police department. Radio had become the authority on the traumatic events that changed people's lives.