A biographical tribute to a journalist nearly forgotten since his suicide in 1954.
A colleague of Edward R. Murrow within the CBS News broadcasting empire, Don Hollenbeck invented contemporary media criticism in 1947, when CBS Views the Press began airing on radio. Until the 2005 release of Good Night, and Good Luck, his career had been mostly lost in the mists of communications history. That film portrayed Hollenbeck as a victim of anti-Communist hysteria—an accurate perception as far as it goes, declares Ghiglione (Media Ethics/Northwestern Univ.; The American Journalist, 1990, etc.), but lacking depth and breadth. Born in Nebraska in 1905, Hollenbeck, an only child, received an attentive upbringing before entering the state university in Lincoln. His adoring mother became increasingly unhinged and killed herself when he was 22. His relationships with women were complicated, and the author gives some attention to his failed marriages and his devotion to his daughter. These passages are brief, since the author’s primary aim is to recount Hollenbeck’s pioneering efforts as an informed, incisive critic of the mass media. Before getting to that, Ghiglione delivers an excellent chapter on his years reporting from World War II’s European theater, showing how important journalists on the scene became to Americans far away from the fighting. The author praises Hollenbeck’s media criticism for its excellence and daring, explaining how those very qualities led to vicious attacks on the newsman by some of his targets. Singled out by Ghiglione as the primary villain is Jack O’Brian, a vituperative New York City newspaper columnist who perceived Hollenbeck—and portrayed him in print—as a Communist endangering America’s welfare.
Well-written and clear-eyed portrait of a crusading newsman.