Dr. Quinjiang Yao
Mass Media in a Free Society
5 July, 2011
“The Voice of America”
Nazis, Communism, Senators, oh my! These are just three of the subjects honest and endearing Egbert Roscoe Murrow followed up on during his time in the media broadcasting system. Media has a large number of important people put away in its book of history, but there is one who shines against them all. Egbert, better known as Edward, Murrow had a vision that changed the media forever. He is known for many traits but one of his most memorable is his voice and style of speech. He chose is words with care and appealed to listeners all over the world. Many saw him as an idol in mass media, but Murrow himself just saw a person conveying the news.
Coming from a modest and simple origin Murrow went on to do great things in his late high school and college careers. Egbert showed a promising future. In his second year at Washington State College he changed his first name to Edward. Murrow was involved in college politics and soon became president of the National Student Federation, top cadet of the ROTC program on campus and class president. (“Biography”) After graduating with a major in Speech(“Murrow, Edward R | NCpedia” ) he found a job bringing Germans students to the United States that were dismissed or fled Germany due to the rise of the Nazi party. (“Edward R. Murrow Biography”) Then in 1935 he assumed a position at Columbia Broadcasting System. (“Biography”)
Murrow was somehow seemingly destined for his career as radio and televisions most dashing news broadcaster. Quickly he was becoming known as the most honest and moral of the people in broadcast, Murrow suited the majority of the masses as the source for up-to-date information. CBS hired him as Chief of the European Bureau then sent him overseas to complete this task with London as his base. (“Murrow Bio.-Journalist/TV Newscaster”) His job was to recruit well known or very important people to interview, as well as coverage over the happenings in Europe. Audience would marvel at the words of this CBS news broadcaster, as his interviews and announcements hit the air of their living rooms. One striking eyewitness report involved Murrow walking through the entrance of the Buchenwald prison camp, as one of the first Allies to enter this death cavern. His description was both blunt and vivid, “As we walked into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over sixty, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it. In another part of the camp, they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve and showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm.”(“Biography”) Murrow showed his passion of news casting when he brought in his every report on the war to the ears of those who would take the time to listen.
“This is London.” Murrow would eventually start every report from his representative position with this line. Murrow covered the World War II with his group of keen and eager minded reporters that frequently gave live accounts of what was going on during this tragic war. These young reporters were dubbed with the title “Murrow’s Boys.” (“Edward R. Murrow Biography”) Their names eventually became part of everyday conversation in Europe and the United States. Europe was in havoc during this time in history. She was speechless, and who better to give her a voice than the aspiring CBS reporter and his team. Edward Murrow and his boys were front and center ready to capture it all. During some of Murrow’s reports citizens could hear the whistling of bombs and the explosive impacts behind the lure of his powerful words. (“Murrow, Edward R | NCpedia”) To add even more charm to his charismatic reports he came across a phrase that would never fade from the pages of history. After hearing the ending phrase “Goodnight and good luck to you all” from a young 13 year old Princess Elizabeth, Murrow himself adopted this conclusion and began ending his reports the same. (“Edward R. Murrow Biography.” -TV Guide)
Coming from the modest background he did, Murrow had the potential to bring honest and truth to the media of his time. There is much debate among this topic, due to the McCarthy report he gave on “See It Now,” a prime time television show that usually brought in about 3 million viewers each week. (“MURROW, EDWARD R”-Museum) Following Senator McCarthy’s investigation of companies in the U.S. that interviewed and eventually accused countless citizens of communist affiliation, Murrow felt compelled to expose McCarthy’s tactics. America now had new views and standards on political figures after that; “To his supporters, McCarthy was a dedicated patriot and a guardian of genuine Americanism; to his detractors, he was an irresponsible witch-hunter who was undermining the nation’s traditions of civil liberties.” (“Joseph McCarthy Biography”) This airing of “See it Now” sent unsettling chills down the spines of many Americans and CBS employees. It took guts to broadcast his finding on McCarthy, especially in the panic of 1950s anticommunist America. This mash-up controversy and acquisition had disastrous consequences for both McCarthy and Murrow one of which eventually lead to Murrow’s retirement from CBS. During this time in American history an excessive amount of uncensored and almost carefree information was given out like pink slips in an economic depression, Murrow was determined to release what he had found about McCarthy. (“Edward R. Murrow Biography”) But the thing he was doing was what he was best at, the reason he was one of the most influential voices of his time in the media, telling what he thought to be the honest and up right truth. Unfortunately some saw it as poor judgment, choosing to say what he did on that 1954 March evening. A few years after that controversial live broadcast “See It Now” was cancelled, the show had been on since 1951. (“Edward R. Murrow – This Reporter”) Tensions between CBS and Murrow grew toward his last years as an employee.
Murrow also had another momentous story called Harvest of Shame. Doing some self-proclaimed muckraking, Murrow brought forth the poverty and suffering of American migrant workers. Aired on Thanksgiving Day 1960, Murrow uncovered the veil of blunt disregard of workers who help feed the families of America. That day he also called for protection of the workers. (“Murrow, Edward R | NCpedia”) 1961 marked the last year of Murrow’s legendary CBS career. Also, 1961 held to be more interesting and eventful than Murrow expected. President John F. Kennedy gave him the position; head of the U.S. Information Agency to him that year. (“Murrow Bio.-Journalist/TV Newscaster”) In 1964, Kennedy awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1965 he was awarded honorary knighthood from the British government. Winning countless awards for his news commentary, Murrow had an image known world-wide as the most influential and distinguished voice in television and radio news broadcasting. He held this image until his death in 1965 he was 57. He died of lung cancer, which coincidentally Quakers are traditionally against smoking as he did. Drinking and gambling were also prohibited in the Quaker community. (“Murrow, Edward R | NCpedia”)
Murrow was a family man, being very close to his brothers, parents, wife and son. This trait might have helped him display such happening as the war, to the people at home in such a way they could feel the shaking ground and musty skies of Europe. His reports always held some trace of his Quaker background. Many saw this as to why he also seemed so endearing and honest in his work. Journalists and reporters are traditionally viewed as deceitful and prying, always trying to start some revolution or stir up trouble, no one wants to be around them. Murrow, however, was quite the opposite. People tuned into his shows every week, waiting to hear what he would say next. In his years of news casting, Edward Murrow did his work well with the technology of his time. He didn’t really let anything hold him back, in his early radio years his voice had already became quite famous, and when television came into play people now matched a face with the charming voice, people couldn’t get enough of him. It appeared as if opportunities sought out to find Murrow. One story after another came Murrow’s way, he took them on with fearlessness and always tried to give it his all. Nothing seemed to be in his way. Murrow, using his dashing voice as well as his perfectly matched profession, saw an opportunity to rain truth to the ears of the listeners he reached. Even technology seemed to wait for Murrow’s personality, radio was in its hay day and television brought forth a new world of opportunity, bringing the media to more people and in an improved attractive way, drawing more and more to witness its marvels. These new advancements only enhanced Murrow’s name and voice.
Edward R. Murrow inspired a nation. He grew to be well known and admired through his line of work. Media would suffer if Murrow hadn’t left his footprints on its foundation. On site reporting might not have come about as early as it did if Murrow and his dear Boys never felt the drive to cover the stories that were being created overseas. He set the stage for field journalism and broadcast, we still use this strategy in today’s media. Murrow fashioned a large impact on media of all types, still influencing the world of media in the present. I will end as the historic and awe-inspiring Edward Murrow once did, in the words of Princess Elizabeth, “good night, and good luck.”
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