COMMUNICATIONS PIONEERS: Edward R. Murrow

For your grandparents, he was the news. Edward R. Murrow reported on the invasion of major cities in World War II, but more importantly, he was responsible for the invention of television news, not as it is today but as we want it to be.

Mr. Murrow pioneered live coast-to-coast broadcasting and investigative journalism. He stood up to government and exposed the wrongs that needed to be righted, but always with respect for the offices of government he investigated. In 1954, when America was in the height of anti-Communist fervor, he stepped forward and exposed the one man at the center of the madness and in doing so changed the course of history.

Mr. Murrow had a strange idea about news programs, too — that they should be short, to the point, and accept no advertising. To run commercials meant sacrificing integrity. That wasn’t really popular with his bosses, and neither was his idea that if you’re presenting verifiable facts, there’s no need to invite someone on TV to rebut them.

Check him out in action. He may seem oddly formal today but that’s the way the news was presented back then:

Even better, read his words spoken in 1958. Here’s a short excerpt but the whole text is here for you and it’s one of the most patriotic things you’ll ever read.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

It’s a good thing Mr. Murrow passed away fifty years ago; the state of TV news today would kill him.