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The BBC World Edition has a commentary from former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans that begins ostensibly as a review of the new film about Edward R. Murrow called "Good night, and good luck". But it quickly evolves into a brilliantly insightful commentary on the state of the U.S. media, particular in the medium where Murrow worked when he took on Senator McCarthy, television news.

He puts this event into historical perspective, particularly given where American TV news now finds itself, when after the Murrow broadcast was aired, it met with:

a chorus of critical acclaim, yet a few years later, in the spirit of Monty Python, Paley and his CBS Network opted for something completely different: the $64,000 quiz . Its immediate success produced a tectonic shift in America's TV culture as commercial rivals copied. Paley first shunted See It Now to an unfavourable time slot, and then killed it altogether. The golden era of documentary television was over.

Harold Evans knew Ed Murrow personally, and can offer a unique perspective upon the events described in George Clooney's film. He seems to like it, although Clooney's portrayal of another friend, Fred Friendly, seems to be slightly off from the reality of that man, to say the least.

But the commentary is wonderfully biting in its assessment of American news. Evans works his way into the subject using his knowledge of Edward Murrow's view in later life of what CBS news was becoming:

Murrow nursed his wounds at CBS until a memorable banquet in Chicago in the spring of 1958. The film pointedly opens not with a McCarthy scene but Murrow on stage telling television's merchant princes that they had they had given over their medium to "decadence, escapism and insulation".

He even predicted what the consequences might be for our willfully ignoring the real news of the rest of the world:

So by 2001, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the consequences of the Taleban's capture of Afghanistan, the insidious growth of global anti-Americanism, came as terrible shock to its insulated world. Murrow had warned it would happen: "If we go on as we are then history will take its revenge and retribution will not be limp in catching up with us."

It's a good commentary, please give it a read. Mr Evans is a longtime admirer of the United States who is genuinely worried about us. This is a man who knew the great journalists when the world of journalism wasn't run by the ratings and the next quarter's revenues. And he knows the reality. He did, after all, resign from the Times one year after it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch, because he felt the owner was attempting to exert undue influence over the content of the paper.

Originally posted to tergenev on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:17 PM PDT.

Poll

Who was the best American news anchor?

24%7 votes
48%14 votes
0%0 votes
3%1 votes
0%0 votes
0%0 votes
20%6 votes
0%0 votes
3%1 votes
0%0 votes

| 29 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have a feeling the poll is a two horse race (none)
    Cronkite vs. Stewart.

    I bet Jon would be appalled and Watler would be amused. :-)

    -- I share no man's opinions; I have my own. -t -6.75 -3.79

    by tergenev on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:32:23 PM PDT

    •  Almost (none)
      I almost voted Jon...but as has been stated below, he's a commedian. He may be a very gifted commedian in a time where comedy and farce are the only useful media for learning, but Cronkite did it straight.

      "Murrow had a child. The damn thing went wild." -- Fleetwood Mac
      (-8.63), (-7.03)

      by Perdition on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 01:58:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cronkite (none)
    Murrow operated before there was such a role as an "anchor".  He gets props as best television investigative documentarian as well.

    Stewart is a comedian.  Yes, there are so many clowns in the government, that one needs a comedian to report the news.  But a comedian, none the less.

    The revolution starts now--in your own back yard, in your own home town

    by TarheelDem on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:39:49 PM PDT

  •  Any assessment of Murrow... (none)
    must include his treatment of William Shirer, his co-reporter for CBS Radio in Europe during WWII, after the war in which Murrow sat by and let Shirer get slimed, blacklisted and let go by CBS in a classic pre-McCarthyite witchhunt.

    Clooney seems to have left out this entire episode in his laudatory film.

    Let justice reign though the heavens tremble

    by Viceroy on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:45:01 PM PDT

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