EdwardR. Murrow was a famous American journalist during and after theSecond World War. Born in 1908, he came into the limelight followingthe successful radio broadcasts during the war. At the time, heworked with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in the US.Millions of Americans listened to his programs. His popularity rosewhen operating in London during the Second World War. He workedalongside a team of foreign correspondents, known as the Murrow Boys.His bravery and eyewitness account news made him popular. Uponreturning to the US, he started working for CBS television where hehosted popular programs such as `See It Now`. The program led to thecensure of Senator McCarthy. He delivered on-spot reports that wereinformative to the audience. Murrow’s peers considered him ajournalist who used integrity and honesty in his reporting.
Thepower of the media was also evident during the Vietnam War. The USadministration used the media events to create a different picture ofthe events happening in Vietnam. President Johnson launched mediaevents to help in winning the support of the American public. Mediaeffect plays significant role in the dissemination of information aswell as influencing the public disposition.
Whatwere the specific strengths of Edward R. Murrow`s World War II radioreports from London?
Murrowpresented a brave attitude to the state of affairs during the WorldWar II. It is through his bravery that gathered first-hand andcredible radio reports. His eyewitness accounts made his reportswidely believed and sought by his listeners in the US. It is a givenfact that the use of the media would have played a critical role whenit comes to the strategies that have been used in the past aboutpolitics and information dissemination. The media was an essentialtool for conveying agenda due to its immense growth potential.Through journalists such as Murrow, the American public and theworld, in general, were informed about the events surrounding theSecond World War. He had a significant impact on the radio due to hisability picture with words. Murrow’s news reports from Londonduring the Second World War were essential. Another importantstrategy that he used was correspondence through Murrow Boys who werebased in various locations around Europe. The young and energeticreporters were also popular in their localities. Some of the membersof the Murrow Boys included Charles Collingwood, William Shirer, BillShael, and Howard K. Smith. The members of this group wereinstrumental in reporting news from the war front during the SecondWorld War. They also depicted courage like the one carried by Murrow.It is said that the group was loyal to Murrow.
Inhis reporting during the Second World War, Murrow remained in Londonto capture first-hand events. With his bravery, he usually flewalongside the Allied forces when they were undertaking the air raids.Reports indicate that Murrow flew in over 20 bombing missions overBerlin, Germany. The two were among the reporters to highlight thehorrific events at the Nazi death camps. According to Kendrick(1970), Murrow once worked as a fire warden hence hi courage startedlong before he started working with CBS (p. 205).
Murrowwas known for usage of certain phrases such as, “This… isLondon,” that he used whenever he was reporting. The memorablelines would quickly capture the ears of the audience. He also usedthe phrases "Good night" and "good luck" when hewas ending his reporting. Personally, he had a good voice that waseasily recognizable amongst his listeners. In the selection of thecorrespondents, Murrow was not mostly interested in journalismexperience but individuals with analytical skills. He also soughtpeople who had a better understanding of foreign language,adventurous and networking capabilities. Despite the opposition fromCBS administrators, Murrow was given a free hand to chooseindividuals he wished to work with to accomplish his assignments.
Murrow’sapproach was more than just informative reporting. He used apersuasive process to draw the audience from the UK and US together.The news were not just ‘mere news reporting’, but filled withfacts. As such, he appealed to the emotions and experiences of thepeople. Emotions are known to unite people towards a common goal.Murrow`s reporting rhetorically united the audience from the US andthe UK. He sought to convince the listeners strategically that theywere fighting a common enemy. It was for this reason that he thoughtcredible reports would effectively help in defeating the enemy.Murrow’s reporting depended on his usage of powerful language,reason, and delivery. Kendrick (1970) observes that Murrow was askillful debater who had great preference for the spoken word (p.214). He used his intelligence to deliver the message to thelisteners who eagerly waited for his news.
Howdid they help his controversial "Radulovich" and "McCarthy"TV programs, which combination of political and economic pressuresterminated "See It Now,"?
Followinghis return to America after the war, Murrow was already a hero athome. At the time, advancement in technology has seen the advent oftelevision. In the US, he started working with the CBS television. Hestarted a popular radio show, `See it Now,’ that highlighted theissues affecting the ordinary citizens. His love for America made himstart producing stories that affect the ordinary people. The storieswere so powerful that they were often subject to political and socialcommentaries. The program broke new ground in television journalism.During the time, he investigated the case of Milo Radulovich, who hadbeen charged on suspicion for being a communist sympathizer. Theprogram, See It Now, contributed to the advancement of Americanjournalism and politics. Murrow’s bravery was evident in theprogram, See It Now. He once said, "We will not be driven byfear into an age of unreason, we dig deep into our own history andour doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful me,not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and todefend causes that were for the moment unpopular" (Kendrick1970, p. 53)
Throughthe program See It Now, Murrow concentrated on controversial mattersin the 1950s such as Red Scare and McCarthyism. The programcontributed to the downfall of Senator McCarthy. McCarthyism arose inthe 1950s to portray communism in the bad light as well as disapproveits influences in the American institutions. Senator John McCarthy,who served in the US Senate between 1947 and 1957, is best rememberedfor his allegations that were many communist sympathizers and spiesin the US. Through the series, Murrow generated various episodes thatshowed communist witch-hunt frenzy. The program largely contributedto the acquittal of Milo Radulovich, who had been charged previouslyon grounds that he supported Communism. By using McCarthy’srecordings, Murrow demonstrated that his actions were dangerous todemocracy (O`Reilly & Dugard, 2014, 76).
Whydid President Johnson create his own media event in response to the1966 U.S. Senate Hearings on Vietnam?
TheVietnam War took place when the world was experiencing Cold War. Onone hand, the US government supported the government of South Vietnamwhile the communist nations such as the Soviet Union supported thenortherners. With the support of the US, the South Vietnameseconducted air strikes as well as ground operations aimed atoverpowering the communist-allies. The US participated in large-scaleto prevent communist takeover in South Vietnam. American invasion waspart of the containment strategy, which sought to prevent the spreadof communism in the western nations. The war generated support andopposition. President Johnson alongside his allies and administrationhad to create an approach to ease the state of affairs.
Atthe time, the American population was becoming increasingly angrysince the country did not realize their goals. Further, the countryhad many casualties while expenditure on the military was likely tocreate an economic crisis. It was then that the US startedwithdrawing their forces through a policy commonly known asVietnamization. This was meant to reduce the country’s involvementin the war by leaving the responsibility to the South Vietnamese.Many individuals questioned the motive behind the US invasion onVietnam without a clear strategy. The country was in a delicate stagesince the leading countries were involved in quiet diplomatic wars.
Aftertaking over power, President Johnson followed a similar pattern ashis predecessors in the management of news. At the time, the countryhad already enhanced its involvement in the Vietnam War. Togetherwith his advisors, President Johnson believed that domestic supportwas essential. Nonetheless, he considered that public support wassometimes fragile hence could easily turn against him and theadministration. He did not believe in media censorship although hewas live to the need to withhold sensitive information about militaryoperations. He believed that censorship would damage the credibilityof the official information from the government. Through the media,he had hoped to engage in public relations where favorable coverageabout the US war effort would be covered. It is reported that therewas ‘information problem’ even after the country adopted newpolicies. At the same time, reporters did not trust the officialcommunication from the government. In fact, the reporters used toregard the briefings as “The Five O`clock Follies”. Some said theinformation was filled with lies and half-truths. By 1965, the mediahad increased their coverage of the Vietnam War. The news items onthe media worried the government officials, including the president.The fear was that the media would reveal the truth about the militaryoperations at the war front. Some reporters started questioning theAmerica’s objectives and methods during the war (MacNamara &VanDeMark, 1996, p. 226).
PresidentJohnson and other government officials became concerned about theimpacts of the images and newscasts portrayed in the media. At thesame time, television audience was on the increase with about half ofthe American population getting news from the TV. As such, hebelieved that mass communication would have great effect on hispolicies and success in the war. When talking to people about theeffect of media on the society, many always tend to think about thenegative effect. The media effect is sometimes negative, but in othertimes, it is positive. The media enables the people to express theiropinions and ideas. One feature about all forms of media is that theyallow communication amongst individuals. Media enables the public toengage in discussions geared towards socio-economic progression.Communication and access to information, in general, are guidingprinciples in the society. It is through communication that theindividuals make decisions regarding important spheres of life.President Johnson was aware of the impacts of the mass media on thereputation of his administration. He watched news from the threemajor networks where he expressed his concern about unfairness andbias in coverage (Diamond, 1995, p. 163).
Asthe war raged, public support declined hence the president had tomake changes on his policies. He charged at CBS and NBC. The 1966U.S. Senate Hearings on Vietnam, also known as Fulbright Hearings,presented an opportunity for the nation knows the truth about thewar. Revelations and testimonies given to the Congress were damagingto President Johnson’s administration. It was revealed that thegovernment was misinforming the public through its officialbriefings. Many reporters depicted the war as a stalemate. After the1966 U.S. Senate Hearings on Vietnam, President Johnson startedcreating media events with the aim of telling the citizens that thenation was making progress. The public relations exercise meant toinform the country that the country realized its objectives inVietnam. The president said that the ‘main front of the war’ wasin the US. He argued that the citizens were not getting the completestory and information about Vietnam War. Dubbed the ProgressCampaign, the exercise enhanced the citizens’ support for thepresident policies on Vietnam.
Therole of media and non-state actors in advancing social goals cannotbe underestimated. It is a given fact that the use of the media wouldhave played a critical role when it comes to the strategies that havebeen utilized in the past regarding politics and informationdissemination. It is worth mentioning that the societies thatinvested in clear-cut strategies, which are supported by thegovernment, have been able to gather support and boost theirpolitical locations. The media was an important tool for conveyingagenda due to its immense growth potential. The media would havehighlighted the political and human rights issues that were crucialfor the public. From the officials who are broadcasting theirpolicies via media houses, to the mass media that are interpretingthese messages on the separate platforms, to the citizens who aresitting at their homes and absorb the information and to thegovernment that needs favorable approaches to creating publicawareness. Edward R. Murrow’s contribution in the Americanjournalism during and after the Second World War cannot beunderestimated. His tenure and activities are a reflection ofresilience and courage that should guide the society.
Diamond,E. (1995). Behindthe Times: Inside the new New York Times.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Kendrick,A. (1970). Primetime: The life of Edward R. Murrow.London: Dent.
MacNamara,R. S., & VanDeMark, B. (1996). Inretrospect: The tragedy and lessons of Vietnam.New York, NY: Vintage Books.
O`Reilly,B., & Dugard, M. (2014). Killing Patton: The strange death ofWorld War II`s most audacious general. London : Macmillan.