Monday, October 15, 2012

Reading: Leeman, Nicholas. “The Murrow Doctrine;” Campbell, W. Joseph. “Murrow vs. McCarthy: Timing Makes The Myth” and “Debunking the ‘Cronkite Moment.’” We split this assignment up among the class; each of you will read (at least) one of these articles. Post your thoughts about the reading  for discussion.


  1. I read "The Murrow Doctrine," an article published in The New Yorker in 2006, just after George Clooney's "Good Night and Good Luck" came out in theaters. The article discusses broadcast journalist Edward Murrow, and more specifically his televised oral battle with Senator Joseph McCarthy around the Red Scare--the story told in Clooney's film.
    The article explains that Murrow was brought on by CBS from the Institute of International Education as an educator, not a journalist, after the controversial Communications Act in the 1930's. But then, with the WWII Nazi invasion of Austria, Murrow was sent to London to begin broadcasting the news about the war, and he became a revolutionary voice of the American people.
    After this initial very public and well-received launch into the public eye, Murrow became a cornerstone of American politics during the remainder of his life, which was cut short by lung cancer to his excessive cigarette smoking. He is most famous now for denouncing McCarthy on the air.
    The article concludes with an interesting statement: Today, you will be much less likely to find a journalist battling a government official over a political issue than you would be to find a journalist going head-to-head with another journalist--Colbert/Stewart style. Murrow gained national coverage and his thoughts and opinions were viewed as extremely valid, especially for someone who was trained on the job to talk to people on the air. He was a natural born journalist, and he will forever be inscribed in American history as such.

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  4. I read The Murrow Doctrine and there was one sentence that really struck me:
    "It is impossible to imagine the McCarthy broadcasts happening today."
    I actually completely agree with this statement. The article goes on to say that Murrow stood up to McCarthey and they, basically, battled back and forth to have the last word. The article says that broadcast journalists would first fight eachother rather than a politician.
    It seems so foreign to me that a journalists would take a side on a subject or, God forbid, voice his actual opinion. I know Howard K. Smith did that too. We are supposed to relay the facts and remain separate from the story.
    However, I always walk the fence on this issue. Yes we can relay the facts. But does it not make us human to feel something about a highlight in our country's history? I kinda like the way that people like Murrow and HK Smith reported. I mean, we're reading about them now, aren't we? They couldn't have done something THAT bad...

  5. I read the Murrow Doctrine and I was so impressed with how Murrow had almost no experience with radio before his broadcast, and that no news organization would let that happen today. It brought me back to the idea that anyone can be a journalist and do a good job of it, so long as they follow ethical guidelines. It also reminded me of the live tweeting of the Bin Laden raid. Was Murrow the first citizen journalist? He turned it into a career at a true news organization, but still, he went out there with no experience at all. I was really taken aback by that.

  6. I read "Debunking the 'Cronkite Moment'" and I was hit with how time and time again, the larger than life tales of history are actually fiction. In retrospect these realizations almost always make sense but the fact that these myths persist past childhood is a statement in itself. Cronkite himself bought into the legend even though he had no proof or reason outside of other papers to believe so. This is a major myth within out profession, but I was weirdly glad to see it be put to rest--the press shouldn't have that much power, never mind one man.

  7. I read the "Debunking the 'Cronkite Moment' and just wow. It kinda makes me wonder what myths will be revealed 20-50 years from now about our government! And even the wars we are and have been involved in recently...It's even crazier how the “Cronkite Moment” myth that CBS's Walter Cronkite called the Vietnam War “mired in stalemate” supposedly had public opinion go against the war, changed the actual policies about the war and even encouraged President Johnson to not seek reelection really takes a toll on how we interpret and learn about US history. President Johnson didn't even watch Cronkite's war assessment when it aired! How could he have made the remark, "“If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America," right after? It isn't even proven if Johnson had watched the broadcast at all, even afterwards. It almost reminds me of an incident with President Bush...but I'll keep more recent politics out of the blog post and leave it for a debunking of a future myth.

    I guess we just have to be more careful in not believing everything we hear.

    1. I read the "Murrow Doctrine." Crazy stuff. So government pressure was at the root of the golden age of journalism? The threat of regulating the networks put pressure on CBS and journalists at the time to provide public programming? Murrow felt pressured to do the "right" thing and stand up to McCarthy partially due to regulations enacted by the FCC? No wonder it seems impossible to find such great journalism in this era, this article says that the deregulation of broadcasting and the rise of public broadcasting have allowed the news to go purely commercial.

      The freedom to editorialize has been lost. We are obliged to the standards of an objective age of journalism. Now with the commercialization of broadcast news it is nearly impossible to bring these public interest investigations, aka news that makes no money, to fruition. Coupled with a loss of the ability of today's great journalists, for instance Anderson Cooper, to speak out against public figures on air without the fear of being labeled as partisan creates an atmosphere where those journalistic endeavors cannot survive. Those who do speak out, for instance many figure heads on Fox News and MSNBC suffer loss of sponsorship and loss of credibility in the eyes of today's public. When Murrow was deciding whether or not to face McCarthy this article says that he lost his Campbell's soup sponsor. That was probably a big deal, but he pressed on because of a personal affront from McCarthy. He threw his economic conscience to the side, and made an editorial that he believed was in the public interest.

      It is very interesting how economics plays such a big role in what news is produced now, but I guess it plays a huge role in most things that happen.

  8. Walter Cronkite is one of the most respected newsmen in the history of journalism, so I personally found the read on him to be very interesting. Something I found fascinating was how important Cronkite was to the entire United States. He was a star, which is something that is lacking for the most part in journalism today. His influence on the Vietnam was very far reaching, so much so that the president of the country was forced to make a statement about topics brought up in Cronkite’s program. I can’t imagine a journalist today that would have that kind of influence where huge political figures had to make their agenda around them. Cronkite was one of the few true super newsmen that the world had ever seen, and I doubt that we will ever see a man like that again.

  9. "Murrow Doctrine"
    Once upon a time, I sat chatting with a total stranger who was sitting on an adjacent bench. We spent the majority of time talking about journalism today, and venerating the pioneers like Cronkite and Murrow. And so it was thanks to the lore of Murrow that I was able to cross generational gaps and reminisce with this random person. That being said, I never saw Murrow as the towering figure of journalistic integrity that he is often portrayed as.
    It was McCarthy’s attack on the army that ended McCarthy’s reign and not Murrow. And I would of course argue against the false mythology of the Murrow vs. McCarthy conflict. After all, the media wants to believe it has a powerful effect and can topple towering figures. What journalist doesn’t want to believe that what they do will have a large and sweeping impact? But as the theorist and linguist Noam Chomsky once wrote (to paraphrase) that the American media is often quick to congratulate itself. And in this historiography course we understand that the idolization of the "Great Man" deserves greater analysis, subjectivity, and scrutiny.
    But back to the article. While I do not condone the misrepresentation of Murrow myth. I do believe the myth itself is a useful tool. The reason why the allure exists is because it’s something that people want to believe in. At the end of the article the author stressed how no journalist works entirely alone, how others contributed to Murrow’s so called great achievement. And Murrow himself often deflected the praise lavished upon him. I don’t think it took away from the actual chain of events that conspired. I wasn’t disillusioned by rather I found it humbling that Murrow was humanized in the texts, thus making him accomplishments more tangible.
    As for the myth itself, it is really so damaging to have? Don’t we need the myth? Or is it wrong to strive for anything less than the absolute truth? No one said the ideal had to be realistic. I suppose the underlying question here is, is the myth innocuous or is it damaging to American journalism? In the current state of journalism in which audience members seem more interested in entertainment than news, having an icon might actually be a saving grace. If anything, once we no longer venerate the ideals that are inherent in the Murrow myth’s appeal, I think that’s when journalistic integrity is truly in jeopardy.