Murrow's Boys

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Murrow’s Boys, or The Murrow Boys, were the CBS broadcast journalists most closely associated with Edward R. Murrow during his years at the network, most notably the years before and during World War II.

Murrow recruited a number of newsmen and women to CBS during his years as a correspondent, European news chief and executive. The "Boys" were his closest professional and personal associates. They also shared Murrow’s preference for incisive, thought-provoking coverage of public affairs, abroad and at home.

The Original "Boys"[edit]

The journalists most often cited as Murrow’s Boys are those who worked for and with him covering the war for the CBS Radio Network, and who set the highest standards for radio and later TV journalism. Murrow recruited most of them, and mostly from wire services. Their story is the subject of the 1996 book The Murrow Boys, by Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson.

The nickname's origins are unclear, but Murrow and the rest of his team were reported by Bill Downs to have disliked the name due in part to its ambiguity and implied exclusiveness.[1] Cloud and Olson interviewed Janet Murrow and set out to determine who exactly fell under the definition of a "Murrow Boy." They primarily included those hired by or associated with Murrow during World War II, with some exceptions.[2]

The original Boys, and some of their notable CBS beats during the war, included:[3]

  • William L. Shirer, who covered the rise of Nazi Germany for CBS from 1937 until the end of 1940 and later wrote a successful memoir about the years, Berlin Diary. His 1,245 page history, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, is still in print, based largely upon captured documents, the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder. Additional major sources include testimony and evidence from the Nuremberg trials
  • Eric Sevareid, who covered the fall of France and the Blitz of London, later covering the war's progress in Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Asia
  • Tom Grandin, a scholar who covered the fall of France before abruptly leaving CBS in 1940
  • Larry LeSueur, who covered the Blitz, the German battle against the Soviet Union, and key World War II fighting in France
  • Charles Collingwood, who covered the Blitz and World War II fighting in North Africa and France
  • Howard K. Smith, who covered Germany before Pearl Harbor and later reported from Switzerland and France
  • Winston Burdett, who covered Eastern Europe, North Africa and Italy
  • Bill Downs, who covered Russia, France, the Normandy invasion, the Netherlands and Germany
  • Mary Marvin Breckinridge, the only woman among the first generation of Boys, who covered Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Low Countries
  • Cecil Brown, who covered Rome, Eastern Europe, Singapore, North Africa
  • Richard C. Hottelet, who covered Great Britain, France and Germany

Of the original Boys, Hottelet would end up having the longest career at CBS, joining the network in 1944 and continuing to work at the network until 1985. He is the lone surviving member of the original group.

Other Murrow associates in Europe[edit]

Several other CBS journalists worked for and with Murrow during the crisis years in Europe, though they’re not mentioned as being in the circle of Boys. They include Bill Shadel, Charles Shaw, Douglas Edwards, John Charles Daly, Paul Manning, George Moorad and Betty Wason. Also included is Edwin Hartrich, who worked under Bill Shirer in Berlin and broadcast daily on CBS through most of 1940; and Ned Calmer, who joined the CBS team in 1940 after working for the European editions of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Herald.

The Second Generation "Boys"[edit]

After World War II, Murrow returned to New York and briefly served as CBS’s vice president for public affairs – similar to the current role of CBS News president. Murrow recruited several promising journalists in the mold of the original Boys, some of whom became close enough to Murrow that they’re seen as a second generation.

They include:

Murrow tried to recruit Cronkite away from UP for CBS during the war and did after the war was over.

Dan Schorr stayed with CBS News until 1976. He later joined the Cable News Network, and was a senior news analyst for National Public Radio, often delivering commentaries in the Murrow mold, until his death on July 23, 2010.

Kalb, the last journalist recruited by Murrow to CBS, was joined by his brother Bernard at the network in the 1960s and 70s. The Kalbs later moved on to NBC. Marvin Kalb is now a Fox News contributor and is now a Washington-based senior fellow for Harvard University.

Many journalists, including some at CBS, include these "post-war" associates in the group of Boys, though authors Cloud and Olson limited their own list to the World War II crew.

Other colleagues[edit]

Though they’re not considered Murrow’s Boys, several other notable journalists worked closely with Murrow during his years at CBS, They include:

  • Robert Trout, legendary correspondent who preceded Murrow at CBS and coached Murrow in radio broadcasting.
  • Fred Friendly, co-producer with Murrow of radio's Hear It Now and TV's See It Now
  • Palmer Williams, Murrow and Friendly’s operations director on See It Now.
  • Joseph Wershba, a reporter who worked with Murrow on Hear It Now and See It Now.
  • Don Hewitt, the director of See It Now in its early years, who borrowed from the format to create 60 Minutes.
  • Edward P. Morgan, who produced Murrow’s CBS Radio show This I Believe in the 1950s. The program presented people’s personal philosophies on morality and faith.
  • Raymond Gram Swing, a radio commentator who worked closely with Murrow to foster understanding between the British and Americans during the war years. He later took over production of This I Believe from Morgan.
  • Betty Wason, radio commentator in Europe 1940-42, stringer for CBS
  • Marguerite Higgins, who worked alongside Murrow, Pierpoint, and Downs during the Korean War.

Friendly later became CBS News president and even later taught at Columbia University, introducing the Murrow standards to generations of young journalists. Hewitt later worked closely with Williams and Wershba during the early years of 60 Minutes.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Downs, Bill (October 22, 1970). "Letter to Professor Theodore Bilski". Washington, DC. "As for the identity of the 'Murrow boys,' it's a matter of definition. Ed didn't like the label. Neither do I nor any of the guys concerned. I believe it was invented in New York as part of the stiletto office politics which abound in all network organizations. Since Ed at one time or another employed all, I think, of the men mentioned in your list, they qualify." 
  2. ^ Cloud, Stanley and Lynne Olson (1996). "Authors' Note". The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. ix–x. 
  3. ^ "The Murrow Boys", The Life and Work of Edward R. Murrow, an archive exhibit, Digital Collections and Archives, The Murrow Center, Tufts University, 2008, accessed February 13, 2011.