EDWARD R. MURROW: An American Original by Joseph E. Persico
Kirkus Star

EDWARD R. MURROW: An American Original

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A plain-spoken, essentially favorable, and near definitive appraisal of the accomplished, angst-ridden man who almost single-handedly made broadcast journalism a respectable profession. Persico (Piercing the Reich, The Imperial Rockefeller) secured the cooperation of Murrow's widow, Janet, and other family members; he also had access to private papers not available to previous biographers like A.M. Sperber and Alexander Kendrick. As one result, the author is able to add telling detail to the largely familiar, often romanticized record of Murrow's career. Cases in point include his subject's hitherto undisclosed problems with the FBI, cool relations with latter-day rival Walter Cronkite, and infrequent affairs (with, among few others, Winston Churchhill's daughter-in-law Pamela). Born Egbert Roscoe, Murrow changed his name to Ed in the Northwest lumber camps where he worked during vacations from high school and college. A big man on campus at Washington State, the handsome, outwardly self-possessed Murrow became a globe-trotting delegate for internationalist student organizations upon his graduation in 1930. Hired as ""director of talks"" by CBS in 1935, he went to England as the fledgling network's European representative three years later. Live newcasts from London during WW II's Blitz made Murrow a star on both sides of the Atlantic; in 1943, he was even offered the BBC's top job. Back in N.Y.C. after the war, Murrow had a brief, unhappy tour as a corporate executive before going back on the air. In 1954, he enjoyed probably his finest hour, using the infant medium of TV to challenge Sen. Joe McCarthy. Having reached this peak, Persico recounts, Murrow went into a slow but discernible decline. Though still revered by fellow correspondents and lionized by the public, he was undercut in the clash between his own prickly integrity and TV's commercial realities. To the vast relief of CBS management, Murrow signed on as head of the USIA during the JFK Administration. Nor was there a comeback after he left government; a cancer victim, Murrow died at 57 in the spring of 1965. Persico's diligent research has enabled him to offer a coherent, revelatory narrative that addresses Murrow's shortcomings and setbacks as well as his triumphs. His informed, evenhanded text clears the air of myth-makers' hyperbole without tarnishing in any significant way the achievements of a complex, charismatic broadcast pioneer.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1988
Publisher: McGraw-Hill