At first blush, this book by a husband-and-wife team of journalists may seem an oft-told tale, a further deifying of CBS News' Edward R. Murrow (already deified in numerous autobiographies by the "boys"). But it is much, much more than that; it is a thorough and scholarly documentation of radio reportage during World War II by the likes of Murrow, William Shirer, Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Hugh Downs, et al., which created a whole new journalistic industry. The Murrow Boys is written with page-turning verve; the largely egocentric, hard-drinking cast is presented in detail with all warts exposed. But the story is also a sad one, revealing the breakup of a fine network news operation by executives focused on the bottom line and, in more recent years, by the advent of local television newsrooms peopled with cookie-cutter personnel selected for good looks and ethnic balance and without regard for journalistic experience. This book gives one pause about the quality of the news we get on TV. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Chet Hagan, Berks Cty. P.L. System, Pa.
An absorbing, frequently poignant narrative about the heroes of CBS radio news, the men and women who set the standards for broadcast journalism during WW II, and about what happened to the heroes, and the standards, in the years that followed.
Although there were great journalists in WW II besides those surrounding Edward R. Murrow, those who were hired and nurtured by Murrow to broadcast the war for CBS radioEric Sevareid, Larry LeSueur, William L. Shirer, Charles Collingwood, and Howard K. Smith, among othershave always shared a special mystique. As the husband-and-wife team of Cloud (former Washington bureau chief for Time) and Olson (former Moscow correspondent for Associated Press) explain, radio news was still in its infancy, and Murrow's live war coverage was the first time the medium's dramatic potential was realized. The authors show that these new radio journalists played an important role in shaping American public opinion about the war: Despite the emphasis by CBS bureaucrats on "objectivity," the Murrow group engaged in more than a simple presentation of facts, ranging from the overt editorializing of Sevareid's eloquent broadcasts from London during the blitz to Shirer's masterful use of irony and insinuation from Berlin. They had to contend constantly with attempts at censorship. Despite their travails, the Murrow Boys enjoyed commercial success: Some wrote well-received books (Shirer's Berlin Diary, Smith's Last Train From Berlin), and some became celebrities in their own right, a portent of the media stars of later years. This success, and the journalists' identification with corporate interests, though, were to have a corrosive effect, as the authors demonstrate: Decades after the war, the traditions of Murrow had faded, replaced by sensationalist and commercialized journalism that lacked either the drama or the intellectual content of CBS radio's brilliant wartime coverage.
A nicely told look back at what was, and a glimpse of what might have been, in the field of broadcast journalism.