H.V. Kaltenborn's radio career goes back to April 21, 1921 when he addressed the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce while speaking from an experimental station in Newark, N.J. Two years later he was regularly heard on the air. He joined CBS in 1930 as a regular weekly news commentator.
When he was nineteen, he ran off from home and joined up to fight in the Spanish-American War. At the same time, he was providing stories for his home newspaper, the Merrill (Wisconson) Advocate. After he mustered out, he decided to spend some time in Europe, returning because his father was dying. When his father died before he arrived back in the United States, he decided to try to become a "big city journalist" and took a job with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Soon, however, at twenty-four, he left the Eagle to go to college enrolling as a special student at Harvard. Having met his future wife, Olga, while overseas working for one of his Harvard professors, he decided to save as much money to prepare for marriage, and upon graduation, worked as a tutor for Vincent Astor, the son of John Jacob Astor. When he finished, he return to the Eagle, which sent him to Washington DC as correspondent. Later, he was sent to Paris to be the interim Paris correspondent.
Kaltenborn was known as a commentator who never read from a script. His "talks" were extemporaneous created from notes he had previously written. His analysis was welcome into homes especially during the war and the time leading up to America's entry into it. He had an international reputation and was able to speak intelligently about events because he had interviewed many of those involved. From the contacts he developed in his travels and his ability to speak fluent German and French, Kaltenborn seemed chosen for the role he developed at CBS.
One of his most famous periods was during the Munich crisis in 1938. Much of what listeners heard was Kaltenborn speaking without script even after sometimes having been up for most of a night covering the breaking news. Some claimed that when Kaltenborn was awakened during the Munich vigil, one merely had to utter Munich and Kaltenborn could talk for hours on the subject.
Kaltenborn had very specific views about radio's role in presenting the news. Later in life he wrote on the subject through many of his books. In an introduction to one of his books, Kaltenborn Edits the News, he spoke to the subject.