Morley Safer became instrumental in dramatizing the horrific effects of guerrilla warfare. By then, television was making extensive use of film footage that was shipped out of the war zones and relayed back to New York in time for the evening newscasts. If it was never easy to achieve, "shooting bloody" in Vietnam became a form of spot news that lent itself to television and began to change attitudes toward the war. Americans were shocked but also fascinated by graphic footage of dramatic helicopter rescues, maimed soldiers, and the corpses of American and Vietnamese boys concealed in lush green fields. Television was much better at showing the costly effects of a policy than explaining the rationales of those who shaped it. Tragically, the vivid combat coverage was rarely matched by vigorous public discussion of Vietnam policy until after the Tet Offensive in 1968. By then the nightly portrayals of death and futility had had their effect, but too late to save the 20,000 Americans who had been killed in action. Few of those early casualties probably ever saw an extended television discussion about the wisdom of waging a land war in Southeast Asia.
If Murrow did not achieve what he ideally wanted -- to alter the American agenda through the medium of television -- he at least raised the right questions to the right audience. He suppressed whatever doubts he might have had about the capacity of the general public to watch news programming, focusing instead on the misplaced priorities of broadcast executives. The immediate audience in Chicago surely liked what he had to say; most of them saw Murrow as a prestigious ally. As an advocate of programming devoted to serious public discussion, he laid out a statement of principles that others could later use in their own feuds with the television "money machine." When considered from the perspective of the general public, this persuasive encounter is most memorable as a courageous reminder that television's enormous profits and large audiences carry certain obligations. Along with a similar message delivered by a Federal Communications Commission ( FCC) commissioner three years later,36 Murrow's effort surely helped heighten expectations about the "public trustee" role of television news. It was probably an added bonus that he made some of the industry's leaders slightly uncomfortable with their success. "I've always been on the side of the heretics," he explained to a friend after the speech, "because the heretics so often proved to be right."37