Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism. .

Author:Cressman, Dale L.
Position::Book review
 
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Edwards, B. (2004). Edward R. Murrow and the birth of broadcast journalism. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 174 pages.

Forty years after his death, Edward R. Murrow is back on the public stage, thanks to a Hollywood movie (George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck), the summer 2005 rerelease of The Edward R. Murrow Collection on DVD (distributed by New Video), and now a brief biography by former NPR Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. The renewed attention comes at a precipitous time: Large numbers of Americans hold journalism in low esteem even while abiding and contributing to a highly partisan media environment. Meanwhile, most young journalists know little about the man who is revered as the patron saint of broadcast journalism.

Murrow's life has already been thoroughly covered. However, full-length biographies--particularly A. M. Sperber's excellent 1986 work of nearly 800 pages--may seem overwhelmingly comprehensive to today's young readers. Conversely, Edwards's account is exceptionally brief. Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism is a sort of broadcast version of Murrow's life story, complete with sound bites and written in the conversational style that evokes for the reader Edwards's familiar baritone. Edwards writes with the authority of someone who knew Murrow. He did not, of course, but perhaps is able to convey such an impression because he was a student of one of Murrow's writers, Ed Bliss.

Edwards touches on all the familiar points of Murrow's story: Assembling the "boys" in Europe, covering the war, giving birth to radio's "roundup" format for breaking news, taking on Senator Joseph McCarthy on See It Now, and the ugliness of ultimately losing the program and leaving CBS. While giving Murrow credit and his fair share of hero worship, Edwards provides some human glimpses of the iconic broadcaster, including his frequent melancholic episodes and nervous twitches. Then, there is the matter of Murrow lying on his job application. Edwards writes that Murrow was so insecure when he went to work at CBS that he added 5 years to his age, changed his academic major from speech to political science and international relations, and claimed to have a master's degree from Stanford. Murrow came clean 2 years later, when the network sent him to Europe and he thought it wise to buy life insurance. It was not the only time the young Murrow had done it, according to Edwards, who points out the obvious irony of Murrow lying to CBS "where he...

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