From VoiceofSanDiego.org :
Edward R. Murrow's Ghost
By NEIL MORGAN
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006
At the movie house on Saturday afternoon, the teenage boys who sat just down my row became almost a companion feature to Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck."
They sat hushed like the rest of us, apparently intent on the life of a broadcast journalist who, in the dissonant 1950s, talked back to authority in front of his national audience, placing his career at grave risk as he shared his outrage over the abuse of human rights in Sen. Joseph McCarthy's appalling denouncements of innocent Americans.
As the film ended, I moved to speak to my seatmates, but retreated; they seemed still deep in thought. Perhaps they are students of journalism teachers who have inspired them, like those of Southwestern Community College, which seems to run away with journalism awards whenever I find myself passing them out.
Yet as America pursues a deadly and fallacious war in Iraq, neither the memory of Murrow's courage nor the nightly death count tolled by Jim Lehrer on the "Newshour" nor the eloquent op-ed columnists of The New York Times have had anything like Murrow's impact on a more cohesive America half a century ago.
Murrow stands in a modest pantheon of journalists, his outspoken boldness on critical issues later matched in Walter Cronkite's fateful declaration to his own nationwide audience that America's war in Vietnam was doomed.
Both men held an almost regal status among young journalists like me. I was the first to volunteer as Murrow's chauffeur when he came to speak at Salk Institute in the 1950s. I had first met him through the kindness of Paul White, an early director of the pioneering CBS Radio News, who retired in San Diego, married a San Diego woman and dashed off editorials for the feisty San Diego Daily Journal, which was later absorbed by the Union-Tribune.
It was White, over game after game of Scrabble, who first made me understand the pressure that a bold network newsman experiences as he risks his job, his audience and his career on his public moment of conviction. It is a pressure that permeates George Clooney's film version of the Murrow career.
It was also a phone call from White, years after his departure, that led to the two of us being escorted into Murrow's studio just as Murrow was going on air one night. As I watched the new Murrow film, I realized for the first time the rareness of those minutes an arm's length away from the on-air Murrow.
Despite Murrow's example, the war for forthright reporting in America is still in jeopardy with powerful forces on both sides, even here in San Diego.
It is fought each day in each reporter's mind, across each city desk, during each editor's morning staff briefing, in each sponsor's office, in each media mogul's effort to hold on to his owner's goodwill and still hold off excessive demands by government sources and entrenched advertisers seeking concessions in the handling of news. In my years as a journalist, these pressures have never been so intense as now, nor the outcome more in doubt.
If "Good Night, and Good Luck" stirs wider understanding of the gravity of these continuing daily confrontations in America, it can prove terrifying but perhaps preventive. If it provokes Americans to become more discriminating in our selection of the sources of news, it could provide the memorial that Murrow would have most preferred.
Neil Morgan is Voice's senior editor.