Edward R. Murrow was a giant of the broadcast news industry. He is credited with making broadcast journalism respectable, courageous, and sincere, and with establishing standards to which broadcast professionals still aspire.
Murrow graduated from Washington State University in 1930 with a bachelor of arts degree in speech. He served as WSU student body president, president of the National Student Federation, and was a top cadet in the University’s ROTC program. He spent two additional years serving as the president of the National Student Federation after graduating. In 1935, he joined the Columbia Broadcasting System as Director of Talks and Education. He became the CBS European director in 1936 and was transferred to London.
When the Nazi Anschluss with Austria took place in 1938, Murrow chartered a plane from his headquarters in London and arrived in Vienna in time to broadcast the German march into the city. From that time he remained “glued to the mike.” In his famed “This is London” broadcasts, he nightly described World War II as he saw and experienced it. Murrow broadcast from the roof of a building during a raid to report an eyewitness account of what the British were enduring on at least one occasion.
He is known for taking his audience places they had never been and allowing them to experience things they could never imagine. In 1950, Murrow flew to the Far East to report on the Korean War. He presented weekly digests of news called “Hear It Now” which was based on an earlier project produced by Murrow and Fred Friendly called “I Can Hear It Now.” His reports included the news of the day, but also stories of the individuals caught up in the wave of events.
Murrow rose to television fame in 1951 with the news documentary “See It Now,” which he narrated and co-produced with Friendly. This show became popular by taking the public into previously unfilmed areas. The “See It Now” program that focused on Senator Joseph McCarthy is viewed as a turning point in the “Red Scare” and earned Murrow a Peabody Award. In “Person to Person,” launched in 1953, Murrow took Americans inside the homes of the great and famous. He also conducted “Small World” and “CBS Reports.”
Murrow retired from CBS in 1961 and took control of the U.S. Information Agency. He retired from that position in 1964 due to lung cancer. He died at the age of 57 on April 27, 1965, on his farm in Pawling, New York.
Murrow was a dedicated broadcaster who has inspired millions of people. Good Night, and Good Luck, a 2005 major motion picture release immortalizing Murrow's journalistic courage, was nominated for six academy awards. The film, directed by George Clooney and staring David Strathairn, received international critical praise. Murrow's dedication to simple, effective communication and his courage and desire to educate the world about the events of his time continue to live on in the spirit of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.