Edward Murrow’s son talks changes in media
GREENFIELD — The various ways people consume news today would have fascinated famed broadcaster Edward Murrow if he were alive today, but the speed that it’s transmitted might have concerned him, his son Casey Murrow said at Greenfield Community College Tuesday.
While covering World War II in Europe, Murrow would have up to two days to file a radio broadcast, his son said. And in the next decade, when he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the hunt for alleged communist sympathizers, he spent months working on episodes for the CBS documentary show “See it Now.”
Even then, a limited audience of urban viewers saw the broadcast live when it aired, with most having to depend on newspaper reviews and recaps the following days, said Casey Murrow, a 67-year-old Vermont educator.
Now, media organizations post news online all day and night and social media outlets like Twitter expose people to millions of voices instantly.
Murrow said his father would likely “be worried about our ability to spew out information too fast and to confuse people and misrepresent things.”
“But I think, overall, he would be interested in the camera work that’s possible and the kind of communication that’s possible,” he said.
Murrow visited GCC Tuesday to conclude the college’s third-annual “Banned Books Week,” which explores issues of censorship and First Amendment rights. A small group of people gathered to hear him speak in the Nahman-Watson Library, including Erving resident Kim Gregory, who worked with Murrow for years at CBS.
He said that while his father fought for these rights throughout his career, he still had to report his war-time broadcasts from London across the table from a British censor — who was ready to cut Murrow off at any moment if he spoke about a particular person or place.
In the 1950s, though, Murrow challenged Sen. McCarthy’s methods of finding and accusing communist sympathizers, saying that his actions “have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies.”
It was editorializing, but Casey Murrow pointed out that journalism then was different — unlike today, where it’s ingrained in journalists to always tell both sides of a story.
“The American reporters who reported on the Second World War did not present the German side or the Japanese side,” he said.
Murrow said his father, who died in 1965, would have been amazed by events like Edward Snowden’s leak of classified National Security Agency information.
“He would’ve thought it was remarkable if someone showed him one document,” said Murrow. “The idea that someone could show you (hundreds of thousands of) documents would have just astounded any reporter of that era.”
Murrow spoke favorably about “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a 2005 film that depicts his father’s battle in the media with Sen. McCarthy.
He said that actor David Strathairn did a fantastic job playing his father, even capturing his voice well.
Murrow said he visited the movie set when Strathairn, George Clooney and other actors did their first run-through. Strathairn told him after that Murrow’s presence made him nervous during the rehearsal.