Saturday, May 29, 2010


If there was one of those pesky S.A.T. questions about the giants of American Media, it might read like this:

1. Edward R. Murrow was to electronic journalism as _____ _____ was to nuclear physics?
a. Albert Einstein
b. Enrico Fermi
c. Niels Bohr
d. All Of The Above

Of course, the answer is "D."

Like scientific trailblazers Einstein, Fermi and Bohr, the man born Roscoe Egbert Murrow on April 25, 1908, was a true innovator, who pioneered new paths to better serve society, even when those roads were fraught with potential danger.

Murrow revolutionized radio news coverage as he brought home the terrifying sounds of the German Blitzkrieg , when CBS Radio dispatched him to cover World War II in Europe. Night after night, he stood, alone, on the roofs of London and , in the most eloquent marriage of narrative and natural sound, Murrow chronicled the Nazi terror that rained from darkened skies , while detailing the courage of the British people, who refused be dominated or defeated.

The team of facile, erudite journalists that he collected during the war, later known as Murrow's Boys, set the standard for insightful reporting of global issues that hit home for every American.

Murrow made the transition to the infant medium of television with panache and perspective, by launching television's first, news journal, SEE IT NOW on CBS-TV. Using primitive, LIVE, video technology to show his audience the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, simultaneously, Murrow and his team offered viewers an image that had never been seen in human history.

His meticulous reportage on the dangers of Senator Joseph McCarty's capricous and vitriloic attacks, recklessly accusing innocent people of being communist agents, all but sealed the fate of the junior senator from Wisconsin.

It was Murrow, who, in 1958, warned television professionals and the audience they were supposed to serve, that unless the young medium was focused on, and committed to, a more noble purpose in the public interest,the most powerful communications tool mankind had ever developed would be little more than "wires and lights in a box."

It did not endear him to the CBS executives who championed his career and signed his paychecks, but Murrow believed that truth and context were due to any citizen who received their news on radio or television.

So, why was this paragon of journalistic integrity and scion of public service broadcasting spending Friday nights in a CBS-TV studio, asking Liberace what he wanted in a wife, listening to Dick Clark wax philosophical about the hot hits he was spinning on American Bandstand, or asking Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall about their group of Hollywood chums called "the Holmby Hills rat pack?"

Murrow was hosting a show that he hoped would revive the art of American conversation, in spite of television.

The LIVE, B&W program was called PERSON TO PERSON and it was a staple of the CBS-TV , prime time schedule from October 1953 until 1961. Murrow launched the show and stayed with it until 1959, when one of Murrow's Boys, the urbane and elegant Charles Collingswood, assumed hosting duties.

It was an instant hit which brought with it the technological challenges of doing remote broadcasts from across the country before fiber optic lines or satellites made it pretty easy for television signals to traverse the continent. The CBS crews worked media miracles, jury-rigging microwave transmission paths, as they deployed miles of cable and trudged heavy camera equipment into Hollywood mansions and Manhattan penthouses.

Yet, some derided the series as too gossipy, too tabloid, too intimate and , above all, beneath the dignity of it's respected and venerable host. Read enough about PERSON TO PERSON and you'll discover that there was much speculation centering on Murrow's motivation in hosting the show. Some said that Murrow may have done the show to fortify an anaemic salary package from the Tiffany Network's news division.

Critics and colleagues spoke volumes on the nature of the show itself, and how it reflected on Murrow's professional stature and on his formidable body of work. Some referring to his work on SEE IT NOW as "high-Murrow" and his efforts on PERSON TO PERSON as "low-Murrow."

It can't be denied that Murrow wasn't always comfortable sitting in front of a giant, electronic window, peering into the homes and into the private lives of celebrities. In light of our current obsession with the famous and near-famous, the whole debate over Murrow's participation in PERSON TO PERSON, and if the show was worthy of the host, is almost quaint.

Here from the MARILYNFAN YOU TUBE site, is a 1955 interview with the vivacious and tormented Marilyn Monroe, from PERSON TO PERSON with Edward R. Murrow. Enjoy!!!!!

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