January 8, 2008

More Murrow

A 800-page tome sits on my nightstand, now cut into a third by my pen book marker. I'm slowly trucking through CBS icon Edward Murrow's life in "Murrow: His Life and Times."

I really shouldn't say "trucking", though. Last night I hit the most interesting point in the story yet: the beginning of World War II through Murrow's experience in bombed out London. I haven't done much reading on this time period. It was just a blip in my western cultures course and nonexistent in high school, so the descriptions are particularly interesting. Broken glass. Fires ripping through neighborhoods. Bombs raining down from silver planes darting over the historical city, exploding monuments, churches.

And in the middle of all this, people lived. Ed Murrow seemed to thrive. A reporter with a story of epic proportions, he found the story that made him into a celebrity. But, like many celebrities today, he wasn't effectual. He didn't get America involved in the war, though the U.S. was desperately needed. The isolationist policies at the time didn't permit, despite the eloquent broadcasts from London's charred broadcast headquarters.

I knew the story would heat up when WWII rolled around. His pre-war broadcasts were censored by a Nazi officer, but he tried to slip things past him, particularly when Jewish shops and homes were targeted. And while I like to think that Murrow and the rest of the world knew what was going on, they didn't.

It's funny to think of it, but NBC had many ins with the Nazis and Germany that the other networks didn't. The Nazis thought, according to the book, that National Broadcasting Corporation meant a government-issued media outlet and gave them exclusive rights to coverage. NBC encouraged this mix-up.

But Murrow kept reporting even when he didn't have access. And he didn't just focus on officials and the rich left in London. He broadcast on the people without homes, living only on the rationed food. But this, I already know is his unique style. Harvest of Shame, a documentary on migrant farm workers, which came later in his career, is built on his interest in the disenfranchised experience. He brought reality through showing faces and giving names to the people he highlighted in his broadcasts, and his writing is remarkable.

Now I am about 200 pages in, I am making the book more of a priority. My essay deadline -- about Murrow's effect on the industry and if another Murrow could ever rise again in broadcasting -- is approaching, but I'm sincerely interested in reading more.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at January 8, 2008 9:04 AM | TrackBack

Amanda that is so sweet about your grandmas dresses.That is the thing that will be with you forever. What do you remember about me?

Posted by: grammy at January 13, 2008 7:37 PM

Murrow is a towering historical figure in American broadcasting. His catchphrase "THIS is London!" is echoed in James Earl Jones' recording of "THIS is CNN!" Yes, the war years will be interesting, but he had perhaps even greater effect during the McCarthy years. I'm sure you'll enjoy learning more about him.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 13, 2008 8:16 PM
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