The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 9; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part II
The following program is an extension of last week's interview between Louis Lyons and Edward R. Murrow. On the program the press and the people.
As moderator of the Harvard University the winner of the Peabody Award for television and radio journalism and allow debacle for outstanding contribution in the field of civil liberties Mr. Louis live Mr. Morris suppose we should consider broadcasting and the press together these two great media of communication to what extent do you feel that they're just competing to what extent do they supplement each other that is thinking from their different limitations. Either something one does better than the other.
Well you know we recently had a newspaper strike in New York. We heard it. And anyone who doubted the importance and the necessity of newspapers certainly had his answer there. I believe that they are basically not competitive. I think the supplements are something that radio and television can do better more effectively than plants and the other side of the car is also cool.
While I'm in the habit of hearing newspaper editors say well television has come in now and they can fast they can beat us to the spot. So we must do the interpretive the background the reporting in-depth but that's the very thing which you yourself are famous.
You know we both remember the days when it was said by uninformed people that radio news would destroy a newspaper. The people who now say that television news will destroy radio equally wrong. I would like the senators of exactly the same. I would like to see more reporting. On radio. But I find that when I work on a story myself and try to do it in depth the first thing I do the next morning is to grab a handful of newspapers and read on the same subject. I think this is true with sports that people will go to a sporting event want the next day to read about it find out what the expert's view was. I don't the competition comes in the area of competition for the advertising dollars. I would guess that a certain amount of the criticism. Not specifically by professional critics of radio but a number of the feature articles that have appeared in various publications recently have as their basis the competition for the advertising dollars.
That's an argument for an expanding economy dollars and I would well I think Mr Morrow has talked before the National Press Club the other day. This had an hour on television which is certainly all you're going to ask for television in full text in the New York Times it was less than a page one of about 60 pages. The proportion with tremendous use of time on television but a relatively small part of the total of the newspaper that suggests one of the women that is quite cool because radio and television have no second pages no turnover they have a front page and nothing else.
Whatever is there for that 15 minutes of that hour their front page.
They're not all going at it. I suppose if you cover the new you really think of yourself as limited to the page 1 star. I pick up the New York Times every morning. Not so much in the first sentence to find out what's the news to find out what they had that I didn't have at 6:30 last night and they put the day in perspective and there isn't much.
Yeah that's true I find that each morning I look at the New York Times to see whether the night before I chose the same lead for the 7:45 radio base at the time still there two or three hours later. You are speaking of. Yes. I think there were as you raised a very interesting question. Perhaps you didn't pursue it here. Yes indeed. But it seems to me one of the most interesting things he said was that he was convinced that the American people wanted peace above everything else. I would rather interrogate him on that subject and the other because if this is the message he carries back to Moscow this could be the basis of a major miscalculation. He could have concluded. That we in this country have become so soft so indifferent that we will pay any price for it. And if that is his interpretation of the phrase It could be disastrous.
You say you like very much to interview him. Many remember an interview with it is what I was coming to as a part of the difference and perhaps to play in the newspaper and television a difference in the standards applied by the public and I get that by the government. You remember the criticism generally of that interview with Khrushchev It was a great school on television. Even the president in a press conference was critical of it. And yet later when Reston an interview with The New York Times that was no criticism.
Do you feel this difference in attitude toward the media but perhaps a more intimate medium gets in the living room for some other reason.
I think perhaps more relevant and also more powerful because of this intimate impact and I felt that the criticism of the view was entirely unwarranted and I say that not because it was done on CBS but that anywhere you can get microphones and cameras.
Leader of the devil. It should be done.
To what extent do you think things are long since and that was a breakthrough the first time anything happens and it's such a surprise just because he was interviewed at least on Meet the Press interview for the national press that you feel we've moved beyond the time when people would be critical in the viewing of the communist government. Yes I think very considerable progress have been made in that area. Well we were mentioning the problem of editorial on television and I'm concerned a little simpler the limitations of format. Many people are certainly familiar with your evening broadcast on radio. You run over the news and then you reach at the end. I think anybody become familiar with the program know that that piece at the end is his editorial. That's one way to segregate it. I'm sure there are other ways. It is easy to let them know when the senatorial and when it's how much of a risk you feel in any broadcast program.
Mixing up the reporting and the commenting I think is a real danger and I think there is also a danger that we may get involved in semantics here but let's try it anyway. If you're agreeable. I do not regard five or six minutes that I do on radio an editorial that requires a little explaining. I do not advocate action. I do not. Attempt to do. Is to set out. A set of developments or circumstance. And then to suggest what consequences may flow from that. I say this because I think it is very important that the listener should be exposed to the same conditions the same set of facts. So that if he reaches a different conclusion from the one I will. I have at least prior to that given him such information. Perhaps I have said more than I know I frequently do I think we all do. But I do not regard this as an editorial in the sense of urging or advocating action.
Well that's very interesting although I think I'd be inclined to arguments tomorrow that very often the most effective is a complete and now analysis and interpretation of the facts. And very often it leads to a point where the conclusion is pretty obvious that this is the most difficult thing to do because.
I am certainly aware that the accident of position sponsorship monopolized opportunity five nights a week and that to that extent you're different from a newspaper.
Sometimes we have only one but usually you have some choices and also that extent I must not.
This monopolize opportunity by advocating my own prejudices or juggling my own prejudices in an effort to advocate a given line of policy. I'm sure you're right because I've never known and I don't think you have a completely objective reporter. There isn't any such thing were all.
You mean where there is any place of mind to make some point of view. Wouldn't want to eliminate not.
We are all a prisoner of our own leading our own experience our own conversations our own Crevel everything else no one can eliminate his prejudice the only thing you can hope to do is to recognize it.
Try to be aware. And to discipline and wouldn't you agree that the really essential discipline of journalism is that the reporter shall be faithful to the fact she should deal factually with their subject doesn't eliminate putting in judgment which is inescapable that there certainly do I know in my own case having spent 10 years in them.
And having acquired a reputation of being a probity. When I write a story about them I try to be. Unusually careful. About my facts because I know that that prejudice is there. I can't do anything about it.
Well as to television that is other than radio the visual news to what extent Mr. Morrow. Is it apt. To be limited to what can be visual that is to what extent is the accessibility of the picture the determining factor in the news I imagine it's pretty hard to get a picture of an idea. And I often wonder how much is left of a television presenter station which the broadcaster would love to put in if you could find a picture that justifies.
The sort of question that would only come from an old pro like you. I should preface this by saying that I have never worked on a daily television news show. So what I'm about to say applies only to the weekly monthly programs. Mostly of a documentary maker. There is no doubt that your editorial judgment is twisted or warped by the availability of pictures and animation support. If you have got good pictures or animation. For a second or third rate story there is a terrible campaign.
To play it. On top of that there is no question about that. Of course you can always get a picture of the president Mr. Douglas making a statement. These are the ideas which are pictured but except for that it is a little hard to get.
My own disposition. Always is that if we have a picture. This is true when we were working on a weekly basis. You haven't the pictures you just sit there and say it and say it is simply you. Then you try to present. Those pictures from twisting a judgment as to what's important. But it is very difficult it is. It's the same problem that would confront the most elusive if they were trying to edit time and life in the same book.
Time. Well as to other. Problems in the business of getting the news and getting it to worse. On the air. When a correspondent watches critical opinion editorial what. To what extent. May he be restrained because of this equal time consideration which we're all at least dimly aware of that if you have a novel careful he may involve his network in having to give away 15 minutes to somebody some time is I don't know I don't think that's a serious consideration now.
I think the equal time provision. Operates. In a different. And. Rather more limiting fashion. For example in the last. Campaign in New York State. I wanted to do on the same program. A little Harriman and Nelson Rockefeller. I couldn't do it. Because there were either two or three additional candidates. In the field. And if I know when you're with a work area where they work but I don't those two I would have had to do the other three. And this is where the limitation of equal time is very onerous I think.
Well we hear a lot from.
England about. Their Broadcasting which until recently was not commercial and which is still partly public at least we hear about their third program as a quality program just as we hear in England. There between the quality price and the popular conception we at least we don't admit recognize you. Well as you look at it how much of a bond Do they have on the quality of their health. The standard level.
Which I shouldn't think there is very much difference in the level of excellence or lack of it. In commercial television in England. And here. A great many of the top rated programs in this country are also the top rated programs on the Marshal television in England. But I think there's a very interesting point here. I would suggest that in most countries. The radio and television operations. Are an accurate reflection of the political social and economic climate in which they rule. And that if you compare for example the BBC. In England. And commercial broadcasting. You would end up with a comparison between Britain and the United States. The BBC being factual. Rather pedantic. Cautious. Somewhat paternalistic. The American system being highly competitive. COMMERCIAL. Experimental. Willing to try almost anything. I think if you really made a detailed comparison of the two systems you would end up with a comparison of the two cultures. I don't know whether that's true but it is. Possible.
Well. I don't favor a porter doesn't need anybody to get along without that his memory is going to get into all kinds of places. A television reporter has a lot of accessory companions and so on which must be a physical limitation. All the preparation takes but I suppose also there are the limitations of what we know in most courts you can't televise them in Congress. To what extent does this physical limitation to the more intimate exposure of the camera. Reduce the range that television cameras for.
Well you know a serious limitation as you see it in covering public affairs that you suggest there are artificial. Limitations on television and radio reporting. Certain congressional committees. Both houses of Congress. The courts. I think they're artificial and I think as the year becomes less.
And the lights. Less blind. That gradually the cameras will be permitted into areas from which they're not barred.
I would hope that there's a case about televising court proceedings. I don't know I rather favor the suggestion that this is a matter that should be left up to the judge. In the case. Do you remember saying about.
When the public in general including witnesses have become is conditioned to television cameras in lights as they work through those papers and the reporter's pencil then. Yes television in court. Until then it really was an additional on the witness and additional tenseness. Do you see anything in that.
Yes I do and I think it tends to a certain extent. To make actors. Out of participants the Australians for a long while broadcast their proceedings of Parliament. And they had great difficulty because parliamentarians being intelligent and able to read it on the schedule were always scrambling. To make their speech in Parliament at the peak listening period. Which tended to distort the proceedings in the ears of the listener.
As to the kind of pressures that anybody in such a medium becomes aware of how serious they are and a little about what we think of certain business interests. We think of special groups labor groups religious groups and we think of general prejudice not only such a regional prejudicial as we might now feel south but in other areas. How much does this. Help.
You win. I would think much less. Than the average layman believe. Again I can speak only of my own experience. That's good enough.
When you lose a sponsor you can never be quite sure. Why you lost it. Just as frequently or inevitably you get felt like two in the first place. But in my own experience. This matter of pressure of people saying don't do that don't do this or after the event saying you shouldn't have done that.
Just doesn't happen. When I was thinking not so much as to whether you actually lose a sponsor or the sponsor business but as to how much the consciousness of these pressures tend to make sponsors and to make broadcasters cautious or their employers cautious how limiting a psychological factor. Is just so much much more heavily on a great network with a vast audience in an individual newspaper and on the courage of an individual publisher.
There's a great variation. I would think that you are right that the individual publisher or editor has more. Freedom of maneuver. Fewer. But.
In. Radio and Television. The. Timidity. I think. Is exaggerated. And I think what there is of it. Is to a large extent unwarranted.
Well it's a relief to hear you say so. I really believe that. Let me. Figure something out. And that is taste and standards of taste which certainly are not unaffected by the horrific impact of these great media. I remember one of my dear old friend Professor Ernest Hawking did a little book. On the press called framework of principle. The accusation against the press and this was all for quite a long all that. Was he said debased Munder standard of Tate's. Pretty hard now. Well now since he wrote that this great medium of television has had its far greater impact. I'm not going to accuse anybody of anything. I just ask you to what extent do you feel such a medium. Has a responsibility as to taste and whether if the critics say the appeal or to the lowest common denominator there's any responsibility in television to try to gradually get that up. I'm sure you've thought about this whether other people in the business end of television ads or not.
Well that responsibility exists. No one's going to die. I would I would think that. Any. Mass instrument of communication. Accelerate or retard. A trend in public opinion or taste but it cannot reverse it. I would think further. That if it be true. That the broadcasting on a concert. Has in fact raised the general level of music appreciation. That it is equally cool that the persistent broadcasting. Of material. Of our intellect will. Depress. The Take. I think this is certainly true.
I think it is a matter of. In this area perhaps appreciating the phrase of the inevitability of gradual ness. Gradually. Taste. May be improved. Because. It will come to be demonstrated that. It is profitable and that there is a larger audience. In the. Upper levels than is generally believed that badly put but one of our very.
Best tomorrow it's an old cliche of journalism that. There is more interest in people and things of the human interest. Story. You seem to reach for. Personalizing and dramatizing I. See it now. Question a person. Must be inherently conscious of this. The importance of the human drama and I suspect that you see more in it than that you see it as a way to get something where you say that about the way you are in the same.
I see much more than that in the first place. We never work with a script. We don't write a lot of film we shoot it generally. A thousand for every hundred that ends up on the air which we could. And yes this is a luxury. We. Are looking. For. The individual. Who is. Believable. Not necessarily eloquent. We did a piece once during a flood on the Missouri. Four o'clock in the morning. I shot a little film. With a little man who worked in an insurance office during the day. Been there for thirty two hours. Controlling crack in. The river. And the bridge was thrumming underneath. Just a question. And I asked him why you'd been there so long. I would not even attempt to paraphrase his answer but in substance it was. That he and his family and his grandparents had thought that. This was. Something that had to be done. Came back to New York when a friend of mine said Who is the writer. Who wrote the copy for that man on the bridge. And I said I know a number of people moderately well. I know no one who could write. That's got to come from the middle. And when it does. The viewer. Understands and appreciates it and believe it. I think. Yes.
And also this this must be the inspiration that this kind of business you know you go out in the field of these things yourself you're a reporter I think you call it luck of running in the Oppenheimer. We say in sports the team gets the breaks and making the breaks and we would say the opposite. You don't get a scope signature dash. Now you must feel quite strongly that this enterprising journalism is a very key. Part of. Doing the job. Being in the field. See in the thing.
Oh yes I have the sort of presence of mind to really grasp things unless. I go and look at it. However superficially.
And. I think particularly in television. In addition to getting the people. You can frequently get them. In a setting. That is very. Well I was ad libbing so badly I was trying to think of an example of that. Oh yes. We did a piece.
In Louisiana. And the only thing we saw was the hand. Of a colored man. Making letters in a very painful face. And his voice said I want to learn to write. So that I can form. A letter. And write to my children. Just in terms of the necessity. For more teaching of literacy in this. Was to me at least very eloquent.
Yes indeed. It was a surprise to me that you say you will actually go out in the field without without knowing what it's going to be and taking all the gear and the apparatus and the expense and the commitment of the state what it must do. It takes a good deal of confidence to be able to keep one's mind open to that point. Well you take it. As a cow. It also it also takes a degree of luck. We don't know but I suggest you're making your luck.
We did a piece on Marian Anderson trip to Southeast Asia. On our program. When we started on it. The camera crew and the reporter said look. We're going to get out of this. Is an opera singer traveling through Asia singing songs that didn't make the program. Well it so happened. That she also did some talking and was interviewed about segregation in this country and still sang at Gandhi's memorial. Turned out to be. One of the best things to which we have ever put our hands.
It just happens. Tomorrow if you're going to take a couple of months off could go out and explore the story that. You really most want to do I don't want to think you've got a copy of mind you'd like to get into.
In two minutes I couldn't begin to list half of them. I would like to do an hour long piece on Canada because I think it is an important relatively unknown country. I would like to do a whole series of pieces around the world to the image of the United States from the outside. We look to other people. I would like to do a lot of reporting of this country to itself. As we both know the lines of communication of broken down in the south between the white and the colored people I think to a certain extent they've broken down in this country and we are so concerned about what the Russians are doing that we are not paying enough attention to what we ourselves are doing and are capable of doing in this.
Big state. Thank you Mr. Maher. Well. We heard. One of. Our wisest journalists. Telling us we need to be enforced. That's essentially what he's telling us telling us we need to be informed about what's going on in our world the great issues of our time. And also to be informed about ourselves. As you just saying I think. And I think we might well consider this statement. For Mr. Miller's concern as with communication and that's one he can share with all of us for communication is sharing. It's not a one way street. We all participate in it either negative or we shrug it off positively. If we respond. And it's it's a problem for all of us whether Iraq channels of communication are to be kept open. And made as broad and deep as possible for on this. Depends the kind of images we get in our heads. And they are. After all. Our it. So until next week at this time on the price of the boat this is where we live.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People
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- Louis Lyons continues his interview with American journalist Edward R. Murrow. Discussion points include television and radio journalism, as compared to print sources, and editorializing on television news programs.
- Louis Lyons hosts this series that discusses the problems and performance of the American Press in reporting leading questions of the day.
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Director: Brydon, Loyd
Guest: Murrow, Edward R.
Host: Lyons, Louis
Producer: Lyford, Joseph
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 143766 (WGBH Barcode)
Format: Betacam Digital (Digi Beta)
Generation: Master: preservation
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- Chicago: “ The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 9; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part II,” 1959-01-24, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 16, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-32r4xv5n.
- MLA: “ The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 9; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part II.” 1959-01-24. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 16, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-32r4xv5n>.
- APA: The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 9; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part II. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-32r4xv5n