The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Excellent piece on Murrow

Noted for future reference: Nicholas Lemann's piece in the New Yorker (off the George Clooney movie, mostly) about Edward R Murrow (oft mentioned here).

A useful debunking of latter-day gilding of the lily: the liberal wet-dream of Saint Ed slaying the McCarthy dragon, for instance.

It points out that Murrow's anti-McCarthy pieces came after the Tail-Gunner had already cut his own throat by going after the Army; and were vastly more overtly political than anything possible from today's network news operations (eg the Killian memos).

And says that Murrow's TV journalism was essentially offered as a sop of quality to the FCC - though how realistic the threat was of FCC retaliation in the 1950s, I know not [1].

Vox clamantis in deserto, poor old bugger!

(He did, it seems, get to boff Pamela Churchill during the war, though. Not all gloom and doom, then...)

  1. Lemann says Murrow made the point in his speech to the RTNDA on October 15 1958. I've skimmed the speech: he refers to
    the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize.
    but the prodding was clearly ineffective:
    It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use the money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that is not libelous, obscene or defamatory.
    In a largely despairing effort (this was pretty much the height of the quiz craze), he says, on the predominance of dross on screen,
    The only remedy for this is closer inspection and punitive action by the F.C.C. But in the view of many this would come perilously close to supervision of program content by a federal agency.
    Rather a sad valedictory.

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