1.United States broadcast journalist remembered for his reports from London during World War II (1908-1965)
|Edward R. Murrow|
Murrow in April 1956
|Born||Egbert Roscoe Murrow
April 25, 1908
North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||April 27, 1965
Pawling, New York
|Alma mater||Washington State - 1930|
|Spouse||Janet Huntington Brewster|
|Children||Charles Casey Murrow|
Edward Roscoe Murrow (born Egbert Roscoe Murrow; April 25, 1908 – April 27, 1965) was an American broadcast journalist. He first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States and Canada.
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Murrow was born Egbert Roscoe Murrow at Polecat Creek, near Greensboro, in Guilford County, North Carolina, the son of Roscoe C. Murrow and Ethel F. (née Lamb) Murrow. His parents were Quakers. He was the youngest of three brothers and was a "mixture of English, Scots, Irish, and German" descent. His home was a log cabin without electricity or plumbing, on a farm bringing in only a few hundred dollars a year from corn and hay.
When Murrow was six years old, his family moved across the country to Skagit County in western Washington, to homestead near Blanchard, 30 miles (50 km) south of the Canadian border. He attended high school in nearby Edison, and was president of the student body in his senior year and excelled on the debate team. He was also a member of the basketball team which won the Skagit County championship.
After graduation from high school in 1926, Murrow enrolled at Washington State College (now WSU) across the state in Pullman, and eventually majored in speech. A member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, he was also active in college politics. By his teen years, Murrow went by the nickname "Ed" and during his second year of college, he changed his name from Egbert to Edward. In 1929, while attending the annual convention of the National Student Federation of America, Murrow gave a speech urging college students to become more interested in national and world affairs; this led to his election as president of the federation. After earning his bachelor's degree in 1930, he moved back east to New York.
Murrow worked as assistant director of the Institute of International Education from 1932 to 1935, serving as the assistant secretary of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, which helped prominent German scholars who had been dismissed from academic positions. He married Janet Huntington Brewster on March 12, 1935. Their son, Charles Casey Murrow, was born in west London on November 6, 1945.
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Murrow joined CBS as director of talks and education in 1935 and remained with the network for his entire career. CBS did not have news staff when Murrow joined, save for announcer Bob Trout; his job was to line up newsmakers who would appear on the network to talk about the issues of the day. But the onetime Washington State speech major was intrigued by Trout's on-air delivery, and Trout gave Murrow tips on how to communicate effectively on the radio.
Murrow went to London in 1937 to serve as the director of CBS's European operations. The position did not involve on-air reporting; Murrow's job was persuading European figures to broadcast over the CBS network, which was in direct competition with NBC's two radio networks. Murrow recruited journalist William L. Shirer to take a similar post on the continent. The two men would become the forefathers of broadcast journalism.
Murrow gained his first glimpse of fame during the March 1938 Anschluss, in which Adolf Hitler engineered the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. While Murrow was in Poland arranging a broadcast of children's choruses, he got word from Shirer of the annexation—and the fact that Shirer could not get the story out through Austrian state radio facilities. Murrow immediately sent Shirer to London, where he delivered an uncensored, eyewitness account of the Anschluss. Murrow then chartered a plane to fly from Warsaw to Vienna, so he could take over for Shirer.
At the request of CBS New York (most reference books say it was either chief executive William S. Paley or news director Paul White), Murrow and Shirer put together a "European News Roundup" of reaction to the Anschluss, which brought correspondents from various European cities together for a single broadcast. On March 13, 1938, the special was broadcast, hosted by Bob Trout in New York, and including Shirer in London (with Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson), reporter Edgar Ansel Mowrer of the Chicago Daily News in Paris, reporter Pierre J. Huss of the International News Service in Berlin, and Senator Lewis B. Schwellenbach in Washington, D.C. Reporter Frank Gervasi, in Rome, was unable to find a transmitter to broadcast reaction from the Italian capital, but phoned his script to Shirer in London, who read it on the broadcast.
Murrow himself reported live from Vienna, in the first on-the-scene news report of his career: "This is Edward Murrow speaking from Vienna.... It's now nearly 2:30 in the morning, and Herr Hitler has not yet arrived."
The broadcast was considered revolutionary at the time. Featuring multipoint, live reports in the days before modern technology (and without each of the parties necessarily being able to hear one another), it came off almost flawlessly. The special became the basis for the World News Roundup—broadcasting's oldest news series, which still runs each weekday morning and evening on the CBS Radio Network.
In September 1938, Murrow and Shirer were regular participants in CBS's coverage of the crisis over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, which Hitler coveted for Germany and eventually won in the Munich Agreement. Their incisive reporting heightened the American appetite for radio news, with listeners regularly waiting for Murrow's shortwave broadcasts, introduced by analyst H. V. Kaltenborn in New York saying, "Calling Ed Murrow ... come in Ed Murrow."
During the following year, leading up to the outbreak of World War II, Murrow continued to be based in London. William Shirer's reporting from Berlin brought him national acclaim, and a commentator's position with CBS News upon his return to the United States in December 1940. (Shirer would describe his Berlin experiences in his best-selling book Berlin Diary.) When the war broke out in September 1939, Murrow stayed in London, and later provided live radio broadcasts during the height of the Blitz. Those broadcasts electrified radio audiences as news programming never had before. Previously, war coverage had mostly been provided by newspaper reports, along with newsreels seen in movie theaters; earlier radio news programs had simply featured an announcer in a studio reading wire service reports.
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Murrow's reports, especially during the Blitz, began with what became his signature opening, "This is London," delivered with his vocal emphasis on the word this, followed by the hint of a pause before the rest of the phrase. His former speech teacher, Ida Lou Anderson, suggested the opening as a more concise alternative to the one he had inherited from his predecessor at CBS Europe, Cesar Saerchinger: "Hello America. This is London calling." Murrow's phrase became synonymous with the newscaster and his network.
Murrow achieved great celebrity status as a result of his war reports. They led to his second famous catchphrase. At the end of 1940, with every night's German bombing raid, Londoners who might not necessarily see each other the next morning often closed their conversations with "good night, and good luck". The future British monarch, Princess Elizabeth, said as much to the Western world in a live radio address at the end of the year, when she said "good night, and good luck to you all". So, at the end of one 1940 broadcast, Murrow ended his segment with "Good night, and good luck." Speech teacher Anderson insisted he stick with it, and another Murrow catchphrase was born.
When he returned to the U.S. in 1941, CBS hosted a dinner in his honor on December 2 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. There were 1,100 guests in attendance with millions more listening via radio. Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a welcome-back telegram, which was read at the dinner, and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish gave an encomium that commented on the power and intimacy of his wartime dispatches.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred less than a week after this speech, and the U.S. entered the war as a combatant on the Allied side.
Murrow flew on Allied bombing raids in Europe during the war, providing additional reports from the planes as they droned on over Europe (recorded for delayed broadcast). Murrow's skill at improvising vivid descriptions of what was going on around or below him, derived in part from his college training in speech, aided the effectiveness of his radio broadcasts.
As hostilities expanded, Murrow expanded the CBS news staff. The result was a group of reporters acclaimed for their intellect and descriptive power, including Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Mary Marvin Breckinridge, Cecil Brown, Richard C. Hottelet, Bill Downs, Winston Burdett, Charles Shaw, Ned Calmer, and Larry LeSueur. Many of them, Shirer included, were later dubbed "Murrow's Boys"—despite Breckinridge being a woman.
During his stay in London, Murrow fell in love with Winston Churchill's daughter-in-law, Pamela, whose other American lovers included Averell Harriman, whom she married many years later. Pamela wanted Murrow to marry her, and he considered it; however, after his wife gave birth to their only child, Casey, he ended the affair.
After the war, Murrow recruited journalists such as Alexander Kendrick, David Schoenbrun, Daniel Schorr and Robert Pierpoint into the circle of the Boys, as a virtual "second generation", though the track record of the original wartime crew set it apart.
Murrow's report from the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany provides an example of his uncompromising style of journalism, something that caused a great deal of controversy and won him a number of critics and enemies. He described the exhausted physical state of the concentration camp prisoners who had survived, mentioned "rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood," and he refused to apologize for the harsh tone of his words:
I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words.... If I've offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I'm not in the least sorry.—Extract from Murrow's Buchenwald report. April 15, 1945.
The relationship between Murrow and Shirer ended in 1947 in one of the great confrontations of American broadcast journalism, when Shirer was fired by CBS. He said he resigned in the heat of an interview at the time, but was actually terminated. The dispute began when J.B. Williams, maker of shaving soap, withdrew its sponsorship of Shirer's Sunday news show. CBS, of which Murrow was then vice president for public affairs, decided to "move in a new direction," hired a new host, and let Shirer go. There are different versions of these events; Shirer's was not made public until 1990.
Shirer contended that the root of his troubles was the network and sponsor not standing by him because of his comments critical of the Truman Doctrine, as well as other comments that were considered outside of the mainstream. Shirer and his supporters felt he was being muzzled because of his views. Meanwhile, Murrow, and even some of Murrow's Boys, felt that Shirer was coasting on his high reputation and not working hard enough to bolster his analyses with his own research. Murrow and Shirer never regained their close friendship.
The episode hastened Murrow's desire to give up his network vice presidency and return to newscasting, and it foreshadowed his own problems to come with his friend William S. Paley, boss of CBS.
Murrow and Paley had become close when the network chief himself joined the war effort, setting up Allied radio outlets in Italy and North Africa. After the war, he would often go to Paley directly to settle any problems he had. "Ed Murrow was Bill Paley's one genuine friend in CBS," noted Murrow biographer Joseph Persico.
Murrow returned to the air in September 1947, taking over the nightly 7:45 p.m. ET newscast sponsored by Campbell's Soup and anchored by his old friend and announcing coach Bob Trout. (Trout left for NBC but returned to CBS in 1952.)
In 1950 Murrow narrated a half-hour radio documentary called "The Case for the Flying Saucers". It offered a balanced look at unidentified flying objects, a subject of widespread interest at the time. Murrow interviewed both Kenneth Arnold (whose 1947 report kick-started interest in UFOs) and astronomer Donald Menzel (who argued that UFO reports could be explained as people misidentifying prosaic phenomena).
From 1951 to 1955 Murrow was the host of This I Believe, which offered ordinary people the opportunity to speak for five minutes on radio.
Murrow continued to present daily radio news reports on the CBS Radio Network until 1959. He also recorded a series of narrated "historical albums" for Columbia Records called I Can Hear It Now, which inaugurated his partnership with producer Fred W. Friendly. In 1950 the records evolved into a weekly CBS Radio show, Hear It Now, hosted by Murrow and co-produced by Murrow and Friendly.
As the 1950s began, Murrow began his television career by appearing in editorial "tailpieces" on the CBS Evening News and in the coverage of special events. This came despite his own misgivings about the new medium and its emphasis on pictures rather than ideas.
On November 18, 1951, Hear It Now moved to television and was re-christened See It Now. After the pre-title sequence and introduction, viewers saw and heard host Murrow explain with a knowing smile, "This is an old team, trying to learn a new trade."
In 1953, Murrow launched a second weekly TV show, a series of celebrity interviews entitled Person to Person.
In 1960 Murrow played himself in the British war-time film Sink the Bismarck.
See It Now focused on a number of controversial issues in the 1950s, but it is best remembered as the show that criticized McCarthyism and the Red Scare, contributing if not leading to the political downfall of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
On March 9, 1954, Murrow, Friendly, and their news team produced a half-hour See It Now special entitled "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy". Murrow used excerpts from McCarthy's own speeches and proclamations to criticize the senator and point out episodes where he had contradicted himself. Murrow and Friendly paid for their own newspaper advertisement for the program; they were not allowed to use CBS's money for the publicity campaign or even use the CBS logo.
Nevertheless, the broadcast contributed to a nationwide backlash against McCarthy and is seen as a turning point in the history of television. It provoked tens of thousands of letters, telegrams, and phone calls to CBS headquarters, running 15 to 1 in favor. In a retrospective produced for Biography, Friendly noted how truck drivers pulled up to Murrow on the street in subsequent days and shouted "Good show, Ed. Good show, Ed."
Murrow offered McCarthy a chance to appear on See It Now to respond to the criticism. McCarthy accepted the invitation and made his appearance three weeks later, but his rebuttal served only to further decrease his already fading popularity.
In the program following McCarthy's appearance, Murrow commented that the senator had "made no reference to any statements of fact that we made" and contested the personal attacks made by "the junior senator from Wisconsin" against himself.
Murrow's hard-hitting approach to the news, however, cost him influence in the world of television. See It Now occasionally scored high ratings (usually when it was tackling a particularly controversial subject), but in general it did not score well on prime-time television.
When a quiz show phenomenon began and took TV by storm in the mid-1950s, Murrow realized the days of See It Now as a weekly show were numbered. (Biographer Joseph Persico notes that Murrow, watching an early episode of The $64,000 Question air just before his own See It Now, is said to have turned to Friendly and asked how long they expected to keep their time slot).
See It Now was knocked out of its weekly slot in 1955 after sponsor Alcoa withdrew its advertising, but the show remained as a series of occasional TV special news reports that defined television documentary news coverage. Despite the show's prestige, CBS had difficulty finding a regular sponsor, since it aired intermittently in its new time slot (Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m. ET by the end of 1956) and could not develop a regular audience.
In 1956, Murrow took time to appear as the on-screen narrator of a special prologue for Michael Todd's epic production, Around the World in 80 Days. Although the prologue was generally omitted on telecasts of the film, it was included in home video releases.
Murrow's reporting brought him into repeated conflicts with CBS, especially its chairman Bill Paley, which Friendly summarized in his book Due to Circumstances Beyond our Control. See It Now ended entirely in the summer of 1958 after a clash in Paley's office. Murrow had complained to Paley he could not continue doing the show if the network repeatedly provided (without consulting Murrow) equal time to subjects who felt wronged by the program.
According to Friendly, Murrow asked Paley if he was going to destroy See It Now, into which the CBS chief executive had invested so much. Paley replied that he did not want a constant stomach ache every time Murrow covered a controversial subject.
See It Now's final broadcast, "Watch on the Ruhr" (covering postwar Germany), aired July 7, 1958. Three months later, on October 15, 1958, in a speech before the Radio and Television News Directors Association in Chicago, Murrow blasted TV's emphasis on entertainment and commercialism at the expense of public interest in his 'wires and lights' speech:
|“||During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: Look now, pay later.||”|
The harsh tone of the Chicago speech seriously damaged Murrow's friendship with Paley, who felt Murrow was biting the hand that fed him. Before his death, Friendly said that the RTNDA address did more than the McCarthy show to break the relationship between the CBS boss and his most respected journalist.
Beginning in 1958, Murrow hosted a talk show entitled Small World that brought together political figures for one-to-one debates. In January 1959, he appeared on WGBH's The Press and the People with Louis Lyons, discussing the responsibilities of television journalism.
After contributing to the first episode of the documentary series CBS Reports, Murrow took a sabbatical from summer 1959 to mid-1960, though he continued to work on CBS Reports and Small World during this period. Friendly, executive producer of CBS Reports, wanted the network to allow Murrow to again be his co-producer after the sabbatical, but he was eventually turned down.
Murrow's last major TV milestone was reporting and narrating the CBS Reports installment "Harvest of Shame," a report on the plight of migrant farm workers in the United States. Directed by Friendly and produced by David Lowe, it ran in November 1960, just after Thanksgiving.
Murrow resigned from CBS to accept a position as head of the United States Information Agency, parent of the Voice of America, in January 1961. President John F. Kennedy offered Murrow the position, which he viewed as "a timely gift". CBS president Frank Stanton had reportedly been offered the job but declined, suggesting that Murrow be offered the job.
Murrow's appointment as head of the United States Information Agency was seen as a vote of confidence in the agency, which provided the official views of the government to the public in other nations. The USIA had been under fire during the McCarthy era, and Murrow brought back at least one of McCarthy's targets, Reed Harris. Murrow insisted on a high level of presidential access, telling Kennedy, "If you want me in on the landings, I'd better be there for the takeoffs." However, the early effects of cancer kept him from taking an active role in the Bay of Pigs Invasion planning. He did advise the president during the Cuban Missile Crisis but was ill at the time the president was assassinated. Asked to stay on by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Murrow did so but resigned in early 1964, citing illness. Before his departure, his last recommendation was of Barry Zorthian to be chief spokesman for the U.S. government in Saigon, Vietnam.
Murrow's celebrity gave the agency a higher profile, which may have helped it earn more funds from Congress. His transfer to a governmental position did lead to an embarrassing incident shortly after taking the job, when he was compelled to ask the BBC not to show "Harvest of Shame," which had been included in a collection of U.S. network television documentaries made available to other countries by the USIA.
According to some biographers, near the end of Murrow's life, when health problems forced him to resign from the USIA, Paley reportedly invited Murrow to return to CBS. Murrow, possibly knowing he could not work, declined Paley's offer.
A chain smoker throughout his life, Murrow was almost never seen without his trademark Camel cigarette. It was reported that he smoked anywhere from sixty to sixty-five cigarettes a day, equivalent to roughly three packs. See It Now was the first television program to have a report about the connection between smoking and cancer; Murrow said during the show that "I doubt I could spend a half hour without a cigarette with any comfort or ease." He developed lung cancer and lived for two years after an operation to remove his left lung.
Murrow died at his home on April 27, 1965, two days after his 57th birthday. His colleague and friend Eric Sevareid said of him, "He was a shooting star; and we will live in his afterglow a very long time." CBS carried a memorial program, which included a rare on-camera appearance by Paley.
After Murrow's death, the Edward R. Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy was established at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Murrow's library and selected artifacts are housed in the Murrow Memorial Reading Room that also serves as a special seminar classroom and meeting room for Fletcher activities. Murrow's papers are available for research at the Digital Collections and Archives at Tufts, which has a website for the collection and makes many of the digitized papers available through the Tufts Digital Library.
The center awards Murrow fellowships to mid-career professionals who engage in research at Fletcher, ranging from the impact of the "new world information order" debate in the international media during the 1970s and 1980s to, currently, telecommunications policies and regulation. Many distinguished journalists, diplomats, and policymakers have spent time at the center, among them the late David Halberstam, who worked on his Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Best and the Brightest, as a writer-in-residence in the early 1970s. Veteran journalist Crocker Snow, Jr. was named director of the Murrow Center in 2005.
In 1971 the RTNDA established the Edward R. Murrow Award, honoring outstanding achievement in the field of electronic journalism. There are four other awards also known as the "Edward R. Murrow Award," including the one at Washington State University.
In 1973, Murrow's alma mater, Washington State University, dedicated its expanded communication facilities the Edward R. Murrow Communications Center and established the annual Edward R. Murrow Symposium. In 1990, the WSU Department of Communications became the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, followed on July 1, 2008, with the school becoming the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. Veteran international journalist Lawrence Pintak is the college's founding dean.
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