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Britain Honors Legendary American Broadcaster


The British historical organization, English Heritage, has honored the late American broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow with a blue plaque at the London apartment building he shared, with his wife Janet, while covering World War II. The fabled broadcaster lived on Hallam Street in central London from 1938 to 1946.

Edward R. Murrow is regarded as a legend in broadcast journalism, not only for the quality of his reporting, but for his integrity as well.

He rose to fame across America during World War II, when he reported, often at great personal risk, on the German Blitz against the British capital. Murrow's eyewitness reports brought the sights and sounds of the war directly into American homes, as this recording illustrates.

"This is Trafalgar Square, " reported Edward R. Murrow. "The noise that you hear at the moment is the sound of the air-raid siren. I am standing here just on the steps in Saint Martin-in-the-Fields."

Murrow's reports are credited with helping to explain to the American public why it was important for the United States to enter the war. The director of radio and music at the British Broadcasting Corporation, Jenny Abramsky, says that will be his lasting legacy in Britain.

"We are very, very proud to be supporting this plaque," said Abramsky. "This is a great journalist who should be honored in the United Kingdom because what he did was ensure that Americans realized what was happening here and actually, in the way he and his team broadcast effectively got America to realize why, in the end, it was right to join the war, and therefore we owe all of them a great, great debt."

Murrow reported for the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS, and during the war he put together a team of fellow reporters who became known in the industry as "Murrow's Boys."

After the war, Murrow returned to the United States and launched a prototype television documentary program called See it Now." He used that program in 1954 to take on Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had been on a campaign against alleged Communists in government, media and the entertainment industry.

Murrow's famous quote from that broadcast was: "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." Murrow's clash with the senator is the subject of an Oscar-nominated film, Good Night and Good Luck.

The current CBS correspondent in London, Richard Roth, says broadcasters continue to draw inspiration from Murrow.

"Forty five years after Edward R. Murrow left CBS News, it is still an organization of men and women who are still motivated by the example he set," said Roth. "And even after all those years he is still our touchstone, our moral compass, and our true north. And every time his memory is honored it is a gift to all of us, it is a reminder of the responsibilities we have as journalists and broadcasters. And it is an inspiration for us to meet them [those responsibilities]."

Among those who attended the plaque unveiling ceremony was one of the "Murrow Boys," Richard C. Hottelet, who Murrow hired to cover D-Day.

Hottelet read from Murrow's 1958 speech to the American Radio and Television News Directors Association, in which he attacked the industry for emphasizing entertainment over news and public affairs programs in pursuit of larger profits.

Hottelet says Murrow's warning then is just as relevant today.

"He saw news as a service that had to be given and not as something to make money," said Hottelet. "And now the bottom line has conquered all."

It was not long after that speech that Murrow fell out with CBS Chairman William Paley, and Murrow left CBS in 1961 to join the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

Murrow became director of the U.S. Information Agency, then the parent organization of the Voice of America. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and he was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire just one month before he died in 1965.

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