At a time when television news (at least in the United States) has become painfully vapid and unwilling to ask tough questions of those in political and corporate authority, this four-disc anthology provides a blast of vintage air. Edward R. Murrow was the first American TV journalist who had the courage to use the medium for highlighting injustice and for challenging those in charge of the country to explain their actions. His unwillingness to retreat in the face of threats resulted in classic footage which is still held up as landmarks in documentary presentations.
“The Edward R. Murrow Collection” offers wonderful insight about Murrow’s life, as well as highlights of his finest reporting. The documentary “This Reporter” traces Murrow’s career, with his extraordinary radio reporting from wartime London during the Nazi blitzkrieg through his efforts to bring news reporting to the nascent television medium of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
“The Best of â€˜See It Now'” offers highlights of the celebrated news program, which took Murrow everywhere from the Korean War battlefront to the studio of painter Grandma Moses. Yes, Murrow did celebrity interviews, but his interviews were intelligent and articulate (a far cry from today’s mush and gush), and his guests were real celebrities (including Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart). “The McCarthy Years” shows Murrow as a one-man army taking on the red-baiting junior senator from Wisconsin and his reckless campaign of witch hunts and blacklisting. If anyone deserves credit for taking down Joseph McCarthy, it was Murrow. Indeed, no other TV journalist since ever had the audacity to challenge political evil with such force and such success (can you imagine any American TV journalist daring to ask President Bush why he was asleep at the wheel in the months leading up 9/11 or why he lied to the country about the reasons to invade Iraq?).
Concluding this selection is “Harvest of Shame,” the 1960 documentary detailing the plight of America’s migrant farmers. The production is still jolting in depicting the brutal poverty and horrendous living conditions which the underpaid/overworked agricultural laborers toiled. Murrow had “Harvest of Shame” broadcast the day after Thanksgiving, clearly intending to shame the country into seeing where their holiday meals originated from.
By contemporary standards, some of Murrow’s style is outdated (his language often veered towards melodrama and his omnipresent cigarette would never be allowed on TV today). Yet Murrow’s ability to relay a story with emotional and visceral force remains peerless. This collection confirms what everyone in journalism knows: Edward R. Murrow was the best, bar none.