Tonight we celebrate Murrow and those upholding his legacy

October 14, 2019 11:00

Relive the magic of the 2019 RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala with photosvideo and highlights here.

A little more than 65 years ago, Edward R. Murrow found himself under attack from a politician whom six weeks earlier, on his prime time news program “See It Now,” Murrow had exposed as a demagogue for accusing – usually with little or no evidence – thousands of his fellow patriotic American citizens of being Communists.

Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin said on Murrow’s network, CBS – quote – “Murrow is the symbol, the leader, and the cleverest of the jackal pack. … What do the Communists think of me and what do the Communists think of Mr. Murrow? One of us is on the side of the Communists. The other is against the Communists.”

The following week, Murrow said on his program of Senator McCarthy, “His proposition is very simple: Anyone who criticizes or opposes McCarthy’s methods must be a Communist, and if that be true, there are an awful lot of Communists in this country. … I require no lectures from the junior senator from Wisconsin.”

It is worth noting that three years after Murrow’s initial “See It Now” McCarthy exposé – shortly before the by-then-censured junior senator from Wisconsin died of liver failure from acute alcoholism – McCarthy muscled his way through the crowd at a party in Washington, DC, so he could get next to Murrow. 

He asked, “No hard feelings, Ed?” Murrow’s reply, if any, was never recorded.

It reminds me of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s off-camera answer when CBS News “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl asked him why he kept using the term “fake news.”

She said he told her, “'You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.'” 

None of our Murrow Award winners is a purveyor of “fake news.” 

None is an “enemy of the American people.”

Tonight, we gather in the beautiful historic Gotham Hall in New York City, illuminated by the images of the man in whose name we honor the television, radio and digital journalists who during 2018 most exemplified the values of that intrepid founding father of our craft – Edward R. Murrow.

And we celebrate both them, and him.

The professional and student winners whose journalism we honor this evening are the best of the best. More than 120 awards will be presented out of a field of more than 4,600 entries - the third consecutive year we have set a record.

I firmly believe that we have entered another golden age of journalism.

Every single day, in every state of this union, there are responsible journalists working hard to hold the powerful accountable, to serve the public by reporting stories that often serve as catalysts for positive change, and who strive to live up to the exalted Murrow’s standards, which he once distilled down into three simple sentences:

“To be persuasive we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.”

This continues to be a daunting time to be a journalist in America. Our work is being attacked not only by people who hold high public office on one end of the political spectrum, but by those seeking high public office from the center and other end of that spectrum.

Those attacks mean that we must continue doubling down on producing trustworthy journalism. They also mean that every single day, we must continue to do what I often admonish journalists across the country to do: Watch your backs, but don’t back down. 

Celebrate these examples of outstanding responsible journalism. Then, return to your newsrooms to continue the never-ending task of seeking and reporting the truth. Nothing less than the future of our society demands it.



 





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