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August 2005
Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism
by Bob Edwards

From the jacket of the 2004 first edition hardback (John Wiley & Sons Inc.):

“It’s amazing to me that Bob Edwards, who didn’t know Murrow, knows him so well. He gives you all of Murrow—the upper Murrow who could make a Nazi death camp come alive, and the lower Murrow who could do rehearsed celebrity interviews for television. I found in this book the Murrow I knew.”
—Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst, NPR

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism is lean and straightforward, yet comprehensive. It captures the talent as well as the trials and ultimate tragedy of a great journalist, a man who left his mark on the twentieth century. Written by a professional who has something to say for himself.”
—Richard C. Hottelet, former CBS News correspondent

Long before the era of the news anchor, the pundit, and the mini-cam, one man blazed a trail that thousands would follow. Reporting live from the streets and rooftops of London as Nazi war planes rained terror from the skies during the Battle of Britain, Edward R. Murrow brought the stark horror of war and the shock of breaking news events directly into American living rooms for the first time—and that was just the beginning.

In Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism, one of America’s most celebrated broadcast journalists tells the dramatic and inspiring tale of how America’s first and greatest newscaster changed the way we receive, understand, and respond to the news. NPR’s Morning Edition host, Bob Edwards, reveals how Murrow pioneered the concepts of radio reports from foreign correspondents, nightly news roundups, and live “you are there” broadcasts. He explains the impact of Murrow’s London reports on public opinion, encouraging aid to Britain, and how the high standards that he lived by influenced an entire generation of broadcasters.

This brisk and incisive account tracks Murrow’s postwar career from the revolutionary television programs See It Now and Person to Person through the legendary 1953 broadcast that helped bring down the Red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy, to his many run-ins with his boss, CBS founder and president William Paley. Once close friends, Murrow and Paley clashed repeatedly over the now-familiar conflict between journalistic integrity and corporate profits.

Murrow emerges from these pages as a complex, principled, and driven man who demanded more of himself than he could possibly deliver but, in the process, set a high standard to which those who followed him could aspire. Sadly, Edwards traces the erosion of standards in broadcast journalism since the 1980s—from infotainment magazine programs to vapid and vicious cable talk shows—which he sees as a betrayal of Murrow’s legacy.

At a time when the network news programs appear to be losing their audience, blanket coverage of sensational stories leaves little time for substantive news, and investigative journalism seems to be a thing of the past, Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism offers a vivid reminder of just how important, informative, and relevant the broadcast news media can and should be.


Bob Edwards has hosted NPR’s Morning Edition, the most popular program in all broadcast media, since its premiere in November 1979. In 1999, he and the program received a prestigious Peabody Award for “two hours of daily entertainment expertly helmed by a man who embodies the essence of excellence in radio.” Also a recipient of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award, he is the author of Fridays with Red, which chronicled his radio friendship with legendary sportscaster Red Barber.


“Get it, read it, and pass it on.”
—Bill Moyers

“Most Americans living today never heard Ed Murrow in a live broadcast. This book is for them. I want them to know that broadcast journalism was established by someone with the highest standards. Tabloid crime stories, so much a part of the lust for ratings by today’s news broadcasters, held no interest for Murrow. He did like Hollywood celebrities, but interviewed them for his entertainment programs; they had no place on his news programs. My book is focused on this life in journalism. I offer it in the hope that more people in and out of the news business will get to know Ed Murrow. Perhaps in time the descent from Murrow’s principles can be reversed.”

Bob Edwards



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