(HOST) A new film about Edward R. Murrow has reminded commentator Bill Seamans of his own early years in broadcasting.
(SEAMANS) During a ten-year sojourn at CBS News before I moved to ABC I received a dream assignment. I was sent from
the TV newsroom to the radio newsroom for six months as part
of a familiarization rotation for key people to improve cooperation between TV and radio. My shift was night side editor at a time when Edward R. Murrow had a fifteen-minute evening radio pro-
gram. He had a small office near the newsroom desk and a small
staff to assist with the hard news while he wrote his nightly com-
mentary. My job was to fact-check names, numbers, pronun- ciations, whatever, a very easy task with the very accurate Murrow group. The reward was to work in the presence of the Great One and to overhear the journalistic wisdom that went into his scripts. It was an experience I could never forget.
Then the other night I went over to the theater in Brattleboro and saw the new film about Murrow called “Good Night and Good Luck.” The title was Murrow’s standard program closer. For me
it was a trip back to that radio newsroom.
The story is about Murrow’s dramatic television expose of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunt. In a smear cam-
paign of lies, rumors, hearsay, innuendo and guilt by association, McCarthy ruined careers and destroyed the lives of innocent people in the name of anti-Communist patriotism. It was called “McCarthyism”.
Film reviews have praised the extraordinary performances and production. My major impression was how skillfully the producer, George Clooney, created a parable for our own very messy political time.
Murrow is shown addressing an awards dinner in 1958 and I quote: “We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent – we have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing informa-
tion. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.”
And Murrow continued: “Our history” – he said – “will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the recordings for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.”
Now that’s what Edward R. Murrow said forty-seven years ago and I feel we can agree that he could have spoken those words today – as if Murrow were still with us observing our own political malaise.
I think “Good Night and Good Luck” is truly a MUST SEE film – whatever one’s political pursuasion.
This is Bill Seamans.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.