Murrow, His Life and Times

Murrow, His Life and Times

Murrow, His Life and Times

Murrow, His Life and Times


Murrow is the biography of America's foremost broadcast journalist, Edward R. Murrow. At twenty-nine, he was the prototype of a species new to communications--an eyewitness to history with power to reach millions. His wartime radio reports from London rooftops brought the world into American homes for the first time. His legendary television documentary See It Now exposed us to the scandals and injustices within our own country. Friend of Presidents, conscience of the people, Murrow remained an enigma--idealistic, creative, self-destructive. In this portrait, based on twelve years of research, A. M. Sperber reveals the complexity and achievements of a man whose voice, intelligence, and honesty inspired a nation during its most profound and vulnerable times.


Reading The New York Times one morning in 1971, Ann Sperber spotted a tiny blurb about a screening of some old CBS News documentaries to be held at Lincoln Center, just a few blocks from her Manhattan apartment. Her mind flashed back to March 9, 1954, when, as a student at Barnard College, she had watched Edward R. Murrow's celebrated dismantling of Senator Joseph McCarthy in a CBS news program that remains to this day the most famous television documentary ever broadcast. Years later, she said, “I remember so clearly the furor in the press the following day, the uproar, the almost festive mood, the air seeming somehow lighter and clearer, the way it does after an electric storm.” And she remembered McCarthy's lame reply, calling Murrow an “extreme left-winger,” and the newsman's response: “If the Senator means to the left of his position and that of Louis XIV, he is correct.”

Seventeen years after the McCarthy program—and six years after Murrow's death in 1965—Ann sat in that darkened Lincoln Center auditorium, surrounded by journalism students, viewing the CBS News programs in which, she remembered, Murrow was “exposing civil rights abuses, showing us the plight of migrant workers and ghetto dwellers, standing up for the First Amendment, looking directly into the camera with a conviction that pierced the screen.” She recalled thinking, “I've got to know more about this man.”

That was the start of a journey that ended in 1986 with the publication of Murrow: His Life and Times. The book won universal praise, spent ten weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, and returned the great CBS newsman to center stage of American journalism.

She characterized him brilliantly:

He was a distinct American type, the product of an older social order,
preindustrial, Calvinistic, with heavy overtones of guilt, a stern morality,

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