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The Early Years

For 14 years, from 1948 to 1962, Edwards was the face and voice of CBS on its evening news show. He was there, in the anchor slot, night after night during those early years of struggle and growth.

And it was a struggle, no question of that. In 1948 there were so few television sets in American homes that when the Edwards news program made its debut, its audience was estimated at 30,000 — and that was for the entire week!

What those early viewers saw bore almost no resemblance to the sophisticated news broadcasts we look at today. There was no color, of course, and the black-and-white pictures were fuzzy. Also, since there was no videotape or satellites, there was no way to provide film reports on today's news from overseas or distant locations in the United States.

There were no television correspondents in the field and no network camera crews to film the stories. CBS did not even begin to develop its own newsfilm operation until the mid-1950s.

Prior to that time, it purchased its film pieces from Telenews, which specialized in providing footage for movie-house newsreels. In fact, most of the film stories on the evening news program in those early years resembled the light features shown in newsreels. Since a little of that fluff went a long way, about 90 percent of a typical broadcast in the first few years consisted of Edwards looking into the camera and reading the news.

But as television sets became a fixture in more and more American homes, the show's audience grew dramatically. So much so that in recognition of the fact that Edwards was drawing viewers to his nightly presence, the name of the broadcast was changed in 1950 to Douglas Edwards with the News.

What also happened in the early 1950s was that television eclipsed radio as the dominant voice in broadcast journalism, and by then even the radio snobs who had been so scornful of the new medium were now clamoring to get in on the TV action.

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Written by Gary Paul Gates. Associate Producer Adam S. Gaynor.
Video production by Jonathan Evans

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