Thursday, November 21, 2013

Murrow in Shining Armor

Catherine McKelvey

Good Night, and Good Luck.

I must admit, as an aspiring journalist, it is extremely refreshing and comforting to relish in the fact that journalism, at its roots, is clean and rests upon a solid foundation of truth, responsibility and honesty.  Gotta love seeing the good guys in action!

"Good Night, and Good Luck," a film directed by George Clooney, is a stunning example of the workings of ethical broadcast journalism.  

The plot of the film follows Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunt" of Communists in the U.S. and the ways in which CBS, alongside its anchor, Edward Murrow, handled exposing the truth concerning a widely controversial political issue.  

Cartoon courtesy of Herb Block
A film set in the Unites States during a period of untamed fear and paranoia concerning Communism, "Good Night, and Good Luck" focuses primarily on one news station's approach to expelling certain allegations made by U.S. Senator of the time, Joseph McCarthy.  

Edward Murrow, a journalist working for CBS, implemented himself into a sticky situation amid his attempts to seek the truth and report it to the public.

After airing a broadcast in which Murrow openly opposed the beliefs of the senator, McCarthy insisted that he too have a say in the matter and have his words heard as well.  Weeks later, McCarthy appeared on CBS and accused Murrow of belonging to a Communist organization in his past, accompanied by several other false allegations.  Murrow, during his next broadcast, expelled such allegations, alerting the public that he has never associated himself, in any way, with Communists or Communist organizations.  

Murrow's Actions:  Right, Wrong, Ethical, Unethical?

As a broadcast journalist, Murrow should have adhered to and followed the RTDNA Code of Ethics.  This code specifically outlines the codes and values which should have guided Murrow in his decision-making process.  In my opinion, Murrow was undoubtedly guided in his decision making and chose the ethical route.  

The code states that professional journalists in Murrow's field should seek truth, recognize that their first obligation is to the public, present news fairly and without bias, embody integrity, act independently and always remain accountable.

As illustrated in the film, Murrow sought to truthfully inform the public.  He acted independently despite concerns from CBS sponsors and even stood by his actions and choices when faced with the reality that he was going to lose his spot in the network and, ultimately, his job.  Murrow, on all accounts, was guided by his code of ethics.

He depicts a shining example of a broadcast journalist who seeks the truth and reports it.  His first responsibility was to the public, and he defended his actions until the very end.

Faced with the predicament of pleasing sponsors of the network that employed him versus exposing the truth and adhering to the public, Murrow chose the path which is oftentimes less traveled.  Murrow exposed the truth and took a stand against the dishonorable actions being carried out by a U.S. senator of the time, all for the sake of informing the public. 

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