Greetings from Dr. Pintak
Edward R. Murrow. The very name is short-hand for excellence in journalism. For integrity. For ethics. For courage.
Murrow was a man with flaws like the rest of us, but his is a legacy that taps something deep inside; inspiring us to emulate his model; leaving us wistful when we inevitably fall short, secretly embarrassed that we ever thought we could fill his shoes.
Though I am far too young to have met Murrow, my career has been touched by his presence. As a broadcast journalism major back in the 1970s, I had the rare honor of studying under Ed Bliss, Murrow’s chief writer and sometime producer. As a young reporter on Capitol Hill, I soaked up Murrow lore from Larry LeSueur, one of the original Murrow Boys, as we worked in the cramped confines of the Senate Radio/TV Gallery.
Later, as a CBS News correspondent, it is not an exaggeration to say I could feel Murrow’s presence in the halls of West 57th Street, “the house that Murrow built,” where, despite the deep cynicism of journalists, he is revered as the patron saint. And I vividly remember the shiver that ran down my spine the first time I signed off, “CBS News London.”
So it is with a mixture of awe, humility and pride that I find myself founding dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
This is a fascinating, frightening and exciting time in the media business. The old models are collapsing; new electronic paths are being blazed. But as Murrow reminded us so many years ago, it is the quality of the information being communicated – not the technology – that matters most.
It is the responsibility of the college that bears his name to help ensure that, even as we prepare our students for the digital future, we do not let the bells and whistles obscure the integrity of the message – whether in journalism, advertising, public relations or any other context.
To that end, even as we roll out our new curriculum, which exposes all students – no matter their major – to a broad range of multi-media skills, we continue to emphasize good writing, solid information-gathering and a fair, balanced and ethical approach to communications.
Murrow invented broadcast journalism and, as a center of research, study and innovation, it is our job to help that industry – and its print counterpart – reinvent itself in this time of turmoil.
But Murrow’s legacy is not confined to journalism. As head of the U.S. Information Agency under President Kennedy, he helped America communicate to the world with honesty, integrity and clarity, a task as vital today as it was a half century ago. Here, too, the Murrow College has a critical role to play.
A chain smoker who eventually died of cancer, Murrow nevertheless reported the first major television investigation into the health dangers of tobacco. It is therefore fitting that health communications is a major focus of the college that bears his name, with an MA and PhD in the field and a growing health communications research agenda.
Finally, there is our international focus. Murrow began his career running a precursor to today’s Fulbright exchange program for international scholars. I would like to think he would be gratified to see that the ranks of the Murrow College’s faculty and student body are filled with scholars from around the world and that students are being sent abroad on exchanges and “backpack journalism” trips to places like Nicaragua and Guatemala.
It is my profound hope that this international outreach will grow in the coming years as the Murrow College aspires to cast a shadow worthy of its namesake.