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FRIENDLYVISION by Ralph Engelman

FRIENDLYVISION

Fred Friendly and the Rise and Fall of Television Journalism

By Ralph Engelman

Pub Date: May 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-231-13690-7
Publisher: Columbia Univ.

The man behind Murrow and much more.

Engelman (Journalism/Long Island Univ.; Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History, 1996) examines the life and career of influential and controversial news producer Fred Friendly (1915–98), best known for his long association with crusading journalist Edward R. Murrow. Born Ferdinand F. Wachenheimer, Friendly was one of the most profoundly influential figures in the history of broadcast journalism. After successfully producing a series of innovative news programs for radio, he caught the attention of CBS News, where he teamed with Murrow to create Hear It Now and See It Now, radio and TV documentary series that re-created historic events for audiences. The Friendly/Murrow partnership capitalized on these successes to pursue increasingly provocative subject matter, such as an investigation of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anticommunist campaign, that frequently brought them into conflict with CBS founder William Paley. Named head of CBS News in 1964, Friendly resigned his post two years later when the network refused to preempt a rerun of I Love Lucy for live coverage of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s hearings on Vietnam. Dramatic, outsized, principled and self-promoting (he sent his letter of resignation to the New York Times), this action encapsulated the many contradictions at the heart of Friendly’s persona. Quotes from colleagues and friends describe him by turns as dynamic and domineering, warm and bullying and passionately idealistic and wearyingly petulant. Friendly continued to wield vast influence over his field after leaving CBS. He taught at Columbia’s Journalism School, established a highly regarded series of public seminars on media and virtually invented the concept of public television. Engelman’s comprehensive research—he cites the dyslexic Ferd Wachenheimer’s school report cards—brings his driven subject into vivid relief. The prose may be dryly academic, but the man, his times and his achievements come through.

A substantial and useful study of the underknown pioneer whose conviction and energy did much to shape the content and character of American broadcast journalism.