The first biography of a largely forgotten journalist, documentary producer, and groundbreaking radio newscaster.
Though Lowell Thomas (1892-1981) was the journalist who first documented T.E. Lawrence’s Arabian exploits and later enjoyed a long career as one of the first newscasters on national radio, he is not celebrated like Edward R. Murrow or Paul Harvey. Stephens (Journalism/New York Univ.; Beyond News: The Future of Journalism, 2014, etc.) captures the swashbuckling spirit of this early journalist, who cut his teeth at newspapers in Denver and Chicago while earning numerous degrees. One of his first jobs as a kind of far-flung travel correspondent, subsidized by the railroads, entailed traveling the country and even going to Alaska, trips that stoked his lifelong passion for travel. A person of “prodigious vitality,” Thomas styled himself an expert on Alaska after a few short weeks and began lecturing on the state (with “colored motion pictures”) at venues in New York. He excelled at public speaking, from lectures at Princeton University to Carnegie Hall, at a time (circa 1917) when the public was hungry to learn more and travel. With the outbreak of World War I, Thomas—“part journalist, part author, part world traveler, part adventurer”—finagled his way to the Middle East action via his own business venture (Thomas Travelogues, Inc.), hitching onto “Lawrence of Arabia’s” efforts to galvanize the Arab revolt and chronicling the action (along with Harry Chase) with realistic, and sensational, war footage, which was shown at home as a much-advertised “show.” The blustery Thomas, whose voice Stephens describes as “rich and bracing, even a bit tart,” was chosen to replace Floyd Gibbons on the first daily news brief on NBC (CBS in the West) on Sept. 28, 1930, and he worked at either network for the next 46 years.
An entertaining look at a unique journalist.