Thursday, November 21, 2013

Expose the Truth? Get Me a Cigarette First

Spencer Giblin

Red Scare

"Good Night, and Good Luck" is the true story of Edward R. Murrow and his public stand on national television against the questionable actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was a politician in the time of our nation's Cold War with Russia. The fear of communism and communist sympathizers was at an all time high during this point in history.

This movie told the story of a well-known public stand against corruption and questionable actions made by people in power. Murrow took McCarthy head on, and directly as many told him not to do. Not only did he challenge a public official's integrity and honesty, he chose to do so on national television in front of the whole country.

Murrow worked for CBS. The broadcast network received leaked information about Lieutenant Milo Radulovich and his discharge of service, due to potential security risks that he and his family brought upon the military. He and his family were accused of being communists/sympathizers, and he was promptly removed from active service. Murrow and others believed that McCarthy's tactics and decisions were wrong, but no one had the courage to stand up against these political powers whom seemed almost untouchable.

The dilemma for Murrow was whether or not to take the story public. To challenge a prominent senator in the United States government for corruption on national television would be a rough day at the office for any news team.

The movie goes on to describe the outside pressures from other newspapers and the military after Murrow's initial show was run. Two military men approach George Clooney's character of CBS producer Fred Friendly. They inform him that it would be in the best interest of CBS to cease any and all shows or stories about the Senator because Milo was in fact a security risk to the nation. No reasons were given. However, the simple fact that they said so should suffice...right?

(Edward Murrow -- Photo Courtesy of Hub Pages Political/Social Issues)

The Truth Will Set You Free

I feel this movie accurately described and depicted a sensitive time in our nation's history. Our war with Russia had made everyone scared to challenge anyone in a position of power, for fear of backlash and repercussions. Murrow took the stand with CBS as someone who refused to let the corruption slide, but this was not without moral dilemma.

Murrow believed that the public had a right to know. He held truth and integrity to the public above all his other moral standards and ethics in journalism. He knew what could happen if he stood up against a prominent figure. He knew he was putting his job at risk. He knew he was putting the station at risk. More importantly, he knew that their simple broadcasts about this issue could start a whole different war with the United States military. He knew that Milo had been wrongfully discharged, but who would believe him?

Murrow wanted to inform the public of this injustice. Against all of the pressures, he and CBS chose to go through with the special series of broadcasts. In them, Murrow would challenge McCarthy's actions, his words, and his overall presence as a nation's senator. He would play crucial parts of McCarthy's speeches and break them down for the public to understand. He questioned everything about McCarthy, and he did so in order for the public to know the truth.

To criticize and accuse someone who was calling out communists in our country during the Cold War and Red Scare could have been equated to journalistic suicide. Challenging McCarthy could have led to McCarthy trying to convince the nation that CBS and it's employees were all communists or communist sympathizers. 

Is it right to protect yourself and you company for the sake of hiding the truth from the public? Murrow didn't think so. I'd like to think that if I were in his position, I would have done the same thing. I consider myself a moral and ethical person, and my responsibility to the public and to the truth trumps many things when I write an article or a story.

Eventually Joseph McCarthy and Milo Radulovich were both allowed to give their perspective of the story and the events that took place. The truth was finally revealed, and Milo was reinstated. Murrow and CBS took it upon themselves to expose the corruption. They stepped back and looked at the bigger picture, which is always something that's hard to do as a journalist.

What is the endgame? Where are we taking this story? Who will it affect, and why? All of these are questions true journalists expose themselves to every day. Edward Murrow was no different, and I could only hope to have half the courage he did at the time this all happened. He was a hero in a nation's time of fear and doubt. He took the stand for truth and justice when no one else would.

Edward Murrow was journalistic ethics, personified.

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