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An Old Team Learns New Tricks

In the meantime, Murrow and his boys came to realize that television was rapidly replacing radio as the dominant voice in broadcast journalism and, like it or not, they had better make their peace with the new medium.

Actually Murrow himself was the first to break ranks and try his hand at television. In collaboration with his favorite producer, Fred Friendly, he had been doing a weekly documentary radio program called Hear It Now. And in 1951, he and Friendly decided to move the show in front of a camera. Thus Hear It Now became See It Now.

In his introductory remarks on the program's first broadcast, Murrow told his viewers that "this is an old team trying to learn a new trade." The learning process would extend over the next two years or so and, during that time, See It Now offered little in the way of memorable television.

But by the end 1953 the old team had mastered the new trade well enough to air a series of courageous broadcasts on McCarthyism, the name for a poisonous wave of political suspicion and hysteria that was destroying many American lives and careers. Most compelling of all was a See It Now profile of the man responsible for the contagion - Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

That March 1954 program was justly regarded as a towering milestone in the history of broadcast journalism, and to this day it stands as a model, an enduring prototype, of strong investigative reporting.

From those early breakthroughs by such CBS pioneers as Edwards and Hewitt on the evening news show, Cronkite in the evolving role of anchorman at live events, and Murrow and Friendly on See It Now, television news eventually grew into a towering force that has permanently transformed what we call the national media.

Next: A Brave New World

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Written by Gary Paul Gates

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