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     The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In
    Informing The American People 
  ; 8; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part I
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This earth today and every day the American people must make decisions on which their whole survival may depend. To make sound decisions the people must be informed. All of this they depend on the Milesians free press. How well is the nation's press doing its essential job that people have a right to know the truth. They have a responsibility to us. They are right to question the press and the people. As moderator from a Harvard University the winner of the Peabody Award for television and radio journalism and a lot of Bach Award for Outstanding Contribution in the field of
civil liberties. Mr. Louis live our gas is America's foremost television mill reporter has penetrated more deeply into the forces that move our world or has had a greater personal impact upon our people than Edward R. Murrow of the Columbia Broadcasting System. This tomorrow shows there's about television today and I quote Surely we feel sorry for using this most powerful instrument of communications to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. There's fear in our programs which running searchingly over the great issues of our time television documentary classics and his recent pigment of the school desegregation places in Virginia was the best perhaps think only nationally televised program which has attacked the highly explosive issue of integration.
Mr Morrow certainly in dealing with you and in your documentary programs have the burning reality television tends to insulate us from the grim facts of our time. Don't you find Mr. Lyons and I say first of all that I would be much more comfortable on your side of the desk asking the questions than attempting to answer them. I am grateful for such a generous and gracious introduction and perhaps you would let me say at the outset that I appear in this academic atmosphere voluntarily as a representative merely as an employee. Thank you on any terms. You are quite right in saying that I have been most fortunate in having an opportunity to do document the quotation that was a moment ago from a little speech I made to a professional group in Chicago. I'm not going to
recapitulate what I was saying I think. I believe this country is in grave and perhaps mortal danger and that to a large extent during our 11:00 in the evening. The television audience is being fed a diet that tends to cause them to be in different terms to insulate them from the realities of the world in which they live. I do not believe that this can be solved merely by the networks or many by the sponsors. Nothing against Western where I merely was contending that the program structure is in some degree in imbalance and that during the listening times there should be more attention to serious stuff. You mention the piece we did on Norfolk. I am happy to report that when I went there in the evening yesterday we were wrong in what you said. In Chicago Mr. Maher and I'm sure we want to inquire as to how inevitable is this whack that you feel and which certainly concerns us
all. Well to begin somewhere. What would you say are some of the serious omission in television coverage of these facts of life. Well I would think at the outset most aligned the most meaningful programming is done and what has come to be called the intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoon. This is a time when many people find it inconvenient to television when the football game is on and when the children are home. I would think in addition to that there is very little in the area of searching examination of our very little in the way of a critical examination of the state of education in this country. In short very little is done to use television as a mirror behind the events of the day. And so far as I am concerned it doesn't matter to me in the least whether what is reflected is a picture of bigotry
of intolerance of indifference to the whole the one thing that the mirror should be there. Yes yes certainly millions of Americans have been disappointed to see it on television and because it is just too costly this time. I'm not sure I can give you an answer as to why it was removed I do not believe it was primarily a financial program that in a sense has replaced if small world is almost as expensive as she if not kept saying title something immediately. Well people must remember your extraordinary interview with duck armer and that programme on atomic energy which in and out without knowing anything about this except as a picture takes an ominous preparation staff of technicians great cost would just tell us a little
about what it means to put off and takes not only preparation and cost but I think the degree of flexibility you mention the interview with Professor Oppenheimer. I went down to the Institute for Advanced Study with my colleague determined to do the impossible namely to do a television program against a few. We shot a fair amount of money every time you open a door you encounter a Nobel Prize winner. Most of them I was unable to understand were becoming very disorderly when intersect with no advance warning no submission of questions in advance. We sat and talked for an hour then back and develop the film and decided that there we had it rather than attempting to do the entire interview. You mention the program on time uses of atomic energy. There we learned a lesson because in our ignorance and experience we thought we would really use the
television medium. So we shot I think it was twenty eight hundred coal in a single switching and then we got a film of a simulated block of enriched uranium alongside a typewriter to get the comparative size of this uranium with the equivalent of the power of the twenty eight hundred. We thought this would really demonstrate. Immediately afterwards we did a 10 minute interview with a recorder and as nearly as we could discover no one really saw our coal or our little plot of simulated uranium yet they remember for the simple reason that your was a man. Well one knew what he was talking about had a fire in it and he was able to communicate and I think one thing at least we have learned and that is that there is no substitute for a good picture of a man who is talking with conviction and
with knowledge of this stuff. And you certainly haven't learned how to dramatize and personalize great issues in the case of the Oppenheimer interview. We are learning. Well now your special report on Africa was another great picture. Remember this government of things with the aspirations of the negroes and the way they're treated now. I wondered to what extent that encountered any banning in the south. No problem we had a similar experience about 2 years ago we did a piece on Clinton Tennessee. We ran it on a closed circuit for the whole program with a big number on the net not a single southern station refused to carry the program and in fact to Southern station that had not been ordered. Saw it on the circuit and decided voluntarily. Well now just the other day January 1 there's
a program on the last class of 1959 that is the close up pretty soon complete reaction but what sort of reaction in the south particularly well it's a little early to tell what the reaction was in the South but from old and experienced and much wiser journalist you would agree I think the lines of the test. Have a program or a piece in print whether the people involved those who live there believe it to have been fair on this story and I am told that both newspapers regarded that program as being just that and that many of the participants were. We gave both sides of the question which was well you must feel happy about that reaction. None of the newspapers in the same week. An extraordinary program. The business of sex tackling a subject which is not much tackled in the prayers to say nothing of this more intimate medium of television.
I noticed that the television critics are done with Mission admiring succession. I notice also that the police in New York thank you want join the police force for a while. When asked what kind of reaction you get. Not a massive reaction from back when a radio program in the newspaper world when you're dealing with sex and the sociological study rather regarded this as a social logical study and I was somewhat surprised I must confess. When the police regarded it. A matter for examination and possible criminal action. I think I would be safe and say that we did not leave anything in that program that was not already known to the police force of New York. Well the sociology I remember one time to one extent to which the Times covered a
trial and missed the option at all but you don't understand in the times that sociology does make a difference in how such a subject this time. I think that was one reaction to the program tomorrow and also later this kind of question as to the extent to which our tastes are changing. James Reston was on the program we're talking about the problem of covering government politics in Washington. He said the pinch of our own history is moving so fast. That is one of the chief or I would agree with that. I think there isn't a tendon problem which concerns me competence in the field but it concerns me when we go to the television and that is not so much rushing to keep up with this. But rather the necessity of trying to convey
to the viewer something of the epic the history of this holistic society. I think one thing that is terribly missing is the reminding of The View were what made this country what it is that it is not an economic one. There there were people in principle and argument and to a frightening extent we are not informing people of our heritage and our background. And I think indeed I am sure that in time of crisis. Without exception every nation in history has gone back. To which to which history to which mythology. Even the Russian get it in the last war in the darkest days they forgot about orthodox Marxist doctrine and they went back to Silver off and all of their old time and I think if the times are this desperate they have given that we in this country
with calibrating to not only to report them but to tell people how we got who did it what the issues were. You're demanding that the people who killed this reporter and the television journalist should know their history. You spoke of sociology in one of these being informed. Think what it takes to win. Yes I think it is important that people should know and when to ignite and evaluate. Governor Faubus I think it is also important that they know about Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine yesterday and for pride. Well I spent most of the war in Britain and I'm quite sure that in the darkest days there a certain sense of support and sustenance to those not just from you but from Probably children and Rowley and Hawkins and all of the other pilots in British
television in this area I think is a limited medium. But I do think it's going to arouse curiosity and stimulate interest so that the viewer when he encounters a book or a magazine article or something will be stimulated to read and inform him self not you. Programs that we mention it must involve great cost to what extent is a limitation on what television can do what the economic limits are I can speak only of my own experience. I have never been refused permission to do a program simply because it was expensive and some that I have done have been exceedingly expensive and some of them exceedingly unsuccessful it is a very expensive operation. An hour's program of the documentary nature will come into the studio at roughly one hundred fifty thousand dollars just for the program that does not include air time but one of the difficulties involved is that if you put that program on
in sustaining time a substantial number of stations will refuse to. They will sell the time locally for a rerun of a dramatic show or a Western or something like that. And this is what I attempted to suggest that there should be a degree of cooperation between sponsors and the network with the network paying the cost of producing a program sponsored airtime and opinion only. I don't want to turn these networks into educational networks or into a long operation but they just occasionally listen. There should be presented programs of an informative nature I think it would be good business for the corporation because I do not believe that most want the so called corporate to insist of dancing cigarettes and so a certain number of criticism I think in time in the fact that the networks and the sponsors were saying that
the primary responsibility rests on the network's brothers I mentioned a moment ago there is one in a matter of circulation. There is still the matter of present action in the time and I feel that if this is to be adequately done. Financially and in terms of network structure it can best be done on a cooperative basis. I can quote Mr. Churchill who once said Not even I have always been right but this was the best suggestion I can thank you. It was certainly a stimulating suggestion. Well you asked the gender issue. It roundish suggest some of the very controversial issues we keep airing it sponsors or television worrying about controversial. Well what about is this a serious matter. I think I have personally been very fortunate in that respect but I think there is a tendency on the part of corporations to say
let's be safe let's not offend any segment of society. I think it is entirely appropriate that corporations should refrain from editorializing. I think we would both agree or better that the sponsor should not you don't want to go out I want to come read it that you're watching now that the networks are not like a bunch of programs. Obviously if this cooperative venture should be worked off the control of program content should be in the hands of the networks rather than in the hands of the sponsor because that is where both the legal and the moral responsibility rests. Well to get back to this bunch of guests we also hear that the sponsor is more in the public interest in whodunit and western news and information. How do you
preserve the public interest. Does he underwent the public on a mission. I think it does. I regret talking about my own program so much that they're the only ones with which I'm familiar. I believe that when the figures are in there will be demonstrated. The program we did on the school situation nor as large an audience perhaps like the larger than the programs if we play. I am entirely persuaded that there is an audience for a more serious and informative program provided they be well done with some attention to showmanship and proper dramatic we don't take from it tomorrow networks are going to get criticism when dealing with a great public event but I'm sure that very often the networks provide programs at the local stations don't you. You might be surprised to know that two of your earth programs are
of greatest interest to watch one president fears he was the new president of Harvard and you interviewed him and then went out and was interviewed by you we read about these in the New York papers you could not see them in Boston. How much of that kind of experience paramount I don't know how widespread it is but certainly that is the program's valuable content. When accessed by the net are not carried by local stations because they can sell it to their own profit. Well many times on this program the grant correspondents have been mentioned with admiration and yet they come through from China are two minutes or a minute from Kendrick in London. Well is it at all conceivable that we might get them periodical a half hour review from Berlin this time last year that beyond the economics of this business I'm not sure it is
one thing you know from experience. Every foreign correspondent whether working for print radio or television is always frustrated. Exposure and an opportunity to tell a story and yet your man your business are much higher. Our two conventions of these two and a half minutes really a crystallization. Yes I think they're going to get him off. I think I will have to refer that question to the management of CBS and roll over that. Well you were sent there their five minute news program just isn't a real news program. Certainly we're on the problem here is time and the cost of time. Well it's only partly right. Well you certainly have the talent. We are not being utilized as well as it might be. Well what about radio Mr. Morrow now that by I think a radio or something which doesn't cost so much and there's more time and just that one has Radio been been
overwhelmed by this market magic television medium What's the chance that in radio we may get this every night. However I would think rather good. I would hope that we would seize the opportunity to do what it does best and that is not only what happened and why but something of the consequences it may be expected to flow from a given set of events. For example due to the limitations of the instrument Conrad on television you're going to get 25 seconds and he will come down the ramp and say I hope. Destructions in Washington this is the night to take yourself the 15 minute period in the profile of this man. Some of his political problems and some of the importance of the position that Germany occupies in the heartland of this is the sort of thing that radio into the television camera
partly because it hasn't affected and partly because the time is too expensive to just go on and sing a little more. The thing with radio television and the radio has time for that you like to see done well and shown and this is perhaps is a more satisfying instrument and the reason for that being I would contend that most consist of ideas in one form or another. I find it very difficult to translate ideas in the words or radio is frequently impossible to translate them into pictures for I think an enormous job to be done by radio and reporting this country to itself in the absence of regionalism in this country is deplorable and the fact that most people with the saying accent are the same kind of the same stories from one end to the other is
deplorable and diminishing the sum total. I would like to see him dealing more with less with the absolute headline more with the verbal obviously much more foreign reporting in depth and I would like to see it deal more with the image of the United States from abroad. One I think it would be good programming because we're all we want to know what our neighbors across the fence or across the street thinks it would get an audience. And I think my complacency and self-satisfaction and our belief that we can do anything better than anybody else what we've been talking about limitations of
commercial broadcasting tomorrow. Now how about educational television as many sponsors to get and why it hasn't any revenue and these not exist and sponsors either. How effective do you feel are educational. I don't want to but I haven't seen enough educational television to be able to make an informed comment. I would guess one thing which I think is pretty well been demonstrated. And others are great teachers are rare but when you find a great teacher he is likely to be able to teach on television as well. But again this is an uninformed comment. I haven't done my homework or research well we've mentioned the problem of now the newspaper there's a separate editorial page where tears in the newspaper makes a lot of separating comment. Now in the area that doesn't allow physical separation your don't call the tween or to what extent is that itself a
limitation. Comment big editorializing. I believe that editorializing on radio or television should be obviously on sponsor should be clearly labeled not too difficult to like and make it quite clear that this is the end of ascertainable facts and now an editorial comment. I think the responsibility for the editorial most obviously rests on the network or the local station. It should not be assigned to an individual no matter what the capabilities or experience of the individual should be. I believe that it would stimulate more serious consideration of a national issue. I think it would make a buck after them so more responsible and more concern and the fact that there
is no prohibition of editorializing in radio and television seems to me no reason why it should not be attempted. Thank you Mr Morrow. The problem that people are concerned Mr. Morrow is that worries be fun to get information through to us on the vital issues that as citizens we must meet and deal with will just rock tourists. This problem is also a challenge. The broadcasting industry and its sponsors and that means the business of America to see the time and not provide for news and destruction of those things are essential that we understand what it will be interesting to see what the answer to morrow challenge will be so unfair all next week at this time on the first and in full on the press and the people.
Mr. Lyons guest was Edward R. Murrow of the Columbia Broadcasting System. This program was made possible through a grant from the public. To this program by writing to Box Five New York 17 New York. Next week. The press and the people. Well again examine the work of the free press in informing the American public.
The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People
Episode Number
The Responsibilities Of Television. Part I
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Louis Lyons interviews America's foremost television journalist Edward R. Murrow on the state of television broadcasting. Lyons addresses a statement given by Murrow during a speech in Chicago in which he remarked, "Surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communications to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities that must be faced if we are to survive." Lyons continues the discussion of the topic with Murrow, who expresses his opinions regarding television content and its impact on the American public.
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: 143765 (WGBH Barcode)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:29:20
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Chicago: “ The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 8; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part I,” 1959-01-24, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 18, 2020,
MLA: “ The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 8; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part I.” 1959-01-24. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 18, 2020. <>.
APA: The Press And The People: An Inquiry Into The Work Of The American Press In Informing The American People ; 8; The Responsibilities Of Television. Part I. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from