Edward R. Murrow: An American Original

By Funkhouser, Edward | Journalism Quarterly, Summer 1989 | Go to article overview

Edward R. Murrow: An American Original


Funkhouser, Edward, Journalism Quarterly


HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY PERSICO. JOSEPH E., Edward R. Murrow: An American Original. New York: McGrawHill, 1988. 562 pp. $24.95 cloth.

Readers now have a choice of three Murrow biographies. The first, Prime Time: The Life of Edward R. Murrow, was written by Murrow's colleague, Alexander Kendrick, and published in 1969, just four years after Murrow's death. Ann Sperber's Murrow: His Life and Times was published in 1986, and 1988 brought us this third Murrow biography from Nelson Rockefeller's biographer (The Imperial Rockefeller), Joseph Persico.

Each of the biographies has a reason to be read. Kendrick's close association with Murrow provided unique perceptions of his subject. Sperber was particularly successful at detailing the development of broadcast journalism from its infancy in the 1930s to the early 1960s. Persico has produced a work which reveals, far more than the two previous biographies, Murrow's spirit and his passion for broadcast journalism. Murrow won every major award given for excellence in broadcast journalism, and he won most of them more than once. Persico tells us what drove this man to such professional heights. This is the work to read for insights into Murrow's personality, beliefs, feelings, foibles and frustrations.

Persico's work is likely to become the most popular biography of Murrow. He interviewed the right people and his research was faultless and well-documented in the book, but the same can be said of Sperber's book. The difference is in how Persico tells us the Murrow tale. His writing is entertaining, revealing, and alive with characters, stories, suspense and humor. One has the feeling that although he may have interviewed many of the same people Sperber spoke to, he asked better questions or maybe received better answers. …

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