AS IT HAPPENED: A Memoir by William S. Paley


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Books about CBS have been rolling off the presses in recent years, and all that sets this one apart is its authorship. William S. Paley--still Board Chairman 50 years after leaving his father's cigar company to buy the small radio network which became CBS--traces its development lovingly and exhaustively, leaving no doubt that he was in control all along the way. ""I would pick up the telephone and say, 'Drop that and do this,'"" he recalls, admitting that he was happiest ""in the early years of CBS when things were not so complicated."" This comes through as Paley describes building the radio network, jousting with sponsors, landing the likes of Will Rogers and an unknown Bing Crosby, and dealing with a newspaper industry trying to kill off its competition by preventing the wire services from feeding to radio. Paley's WW II activities are a highlight: working with Ed Murrow, setting up D-Day broadcasts by European heads of state. But after that, when TV takes over, the story comes to sound like a corporate annual report. Paley rationalizes programming decisions-the quiz show scandal, Watergate broadcasts--and he gives a lengthy plug to Paper Chase and other current selections, making the book already seem dated. There is little bloodletting--Fred Friendly's public resignation when CBS opts for re-runs instead of Watergate coverage elicits the admission, ""I blew my stack""--with omissions more significant, on the whole, than commissions. Former programming chief Fred Silverman is mentioned only as surprising Paley with his resignation, and Daniel Schorr is dismissed in a footnote. More encyclopedia than eye-opener.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday