Fostering Murrow's Legacy
The Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism is an opportunity to examine current events through the eye of one of the 20th century's most influential reporters.
In the title of one of his seminal television programs, influential broadcaster Edward R. Murrow entreated his viewers to "See It Now." In that spirit of education and exploration, the question posed by the second annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism, which takes place Apr. 9 at Tufts, is "What Would Murrow See Now? How the Press Covers War and Conflict."
Though Murrow has passed on, his legacy continues to inspire the way journalism is executed. "For a lot of people, Edward R. Murrow really defined the way a foreign correspondent covers conflicts and war," says Julie Dobrow, director of the Communication and Media Studies program in Tufts' Experimental College and organizer of the forum.
The forum, co-sponsored by The Edward R. Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy at The Fletcher School and Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, both celebrates Murrow's contributions and examines the pressing issues of the day. "What we want to be doing is simultaneously taking a look back at somebody who was an important journalist in this country and around the world and then thinking about what his legacy means and reflecting on contemporary issues in journalism," says Dobrow.
Murrow was known for his hard-hitting reporting, such as his accounts of the Blitz in his famous World War II radio broadcasts from London and his chilling description of the Buchenwald concentration camp upon its liberation in 1945. Murrow's direct approach had both its supporters and detractors, but his impact on the field is undeniable.
"In one sense, what is regarded almost as advocacy journalism today and is often criticized, I don't think he would criticize at all," says Crocker Snow, director of the Murrow Center and a former war correspondent. "I think he'd feel comfortable and good about some of the writing and the TV and radio reports that had some passion and personality in them. His personality and attitude was certainly reflected in what he did."
Murrow's influence can be partially attributed to his initial medium. While radio is not considered flashy technology nowadays, back then it helped foster a sense of community that compounded the impact of the news it relayed.
"When Americans listened to Murrow on the radio, they clustered around and heard it together in families and neighborhoods," says Paul Joseph, a professor of sociology and director of the Peace and Justice Studies program at Tufts. "It's not only what the information is, but what are the conditions in which you perceive and absorb that information?"
While people may have more media to choose from today, Joseph says it can often be harder to get clear information.
"There are much more difficult, challenging questions about what our society is, what our leadership structure is and who we are," says Joseph. "It is much more of a challenge [to sort through], in some ways, than the information we got from Edward R. Murrow."
Crocker Snow, director of the Murrow Center at Tufts.
Snow agrees. "I think [Murrow] would be absolutely astonished at the profusion of information that the consumer has to select and pick from. He was the sole voice from Britain during the worst parts of the Battle of Britain. There was no competition. Now it's almost exactly the opposite."
Issues like these are ones that the Murrow Forum aims to address. The forum launched last year amid a confluence of well-timed events: the addition of more documents to the collection of Murrow's papers housed at Tufts, the release of the film "Good Night, and Good Luck," which chronicled Murrow's campaign against McCarthyism, and former NBC News President Neal Shapiro teaching a class at Tufts on broadcast news. Former ABC "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel moderated a panel of experts discussing "The U.S. Press and the World."
This year, former CBS Evening News anchor and current global correspondent for HDNet Dan Rather will moderate the panel, which features Kimberly Abbott, North American media adviser for International Crisis Group; Dave Marash, an anchor for Al Jazeera English; Boston Globe special projects reporter Charles Sennott; and Commander Joseph "Cappy" Surette, public affairs officer with the U.S. European Command Liaison Office.
Dobrow says the Murrow Forum fuses the strong interest in communications at Tufts—the CMS program is the largest interdisciplinary minor at the university—and the campus-wide focus on global affairs and civic engagement.
"The combination of all those things is sort of a perfect storm in putting together an event like the Murrow Forum," she says.
Profile written by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications
Homepage photo: U.S. Marine Cpl. Jonathan Santiago takes off his helmet on top of his Amphibious Assault Vehicle after a patrol in Karabilah, Iraq, seven miles from Syria, on Dec. 1, 2005. (Jacob Silberberg (A'02) / Associated Press)
Other photos: Additional Iraq photo by Jacob Silberberg (A'02), Associated Press; Current screen images courtesy of Adrian Baschuk; Murrow photo from Tufts Digital Collections and Archives; Paul Joseph photo by Joanie Tobin, Tufts University Photo; Crocker Snow photo by Melody Ko, Tufts University Photo
This story originally ran on Apr. 9, 2007.