Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: Edward R Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism

Many people are familiar with Edward R Murrow, mainly in the context of his role in challenging McCarthyism, as portrayed in the film Good Night and Goodluck. Even prior to this film, many are familiar with his role in shaping journalism and in particular with his barn-burner speech that I referenced here.

I, for one, wasn't familiar with his life up to that point, and so when I came across the audiobook version of Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism, I decided to pick it up.

Highly recommended, especially in audiobook form.

First off, the book is a good study of how Murrow's principles guided his actions. He was able to steer a course in complex scenarios because he had a clear view of what he believed was right. Still, there were times where he decided to pick his battles, but this was more about astute politics than it was any wavering in his principles.

Secondly, it's also a lesson about people passionate about a new medium (two actually, radio and then television) experimented to find it's potential. There are lessons here for games as a medium, especially for serious fare.

Finally, the audiobook uses some original recordings which are well worth hearing. Murrow's recount of riding shotgun on a British bomber on a bombing run over Berlin is electrifying, white-knuckle listening, even sixty-plus years later.

My only complaint about the book is that the author, in his conclusion, claims we'll never have another Murrow because the mediums have already been invented - there'll never be another 'birth' period to live through. This is of course untrue. We are still in the midst of the reforming of journalism for the Internet, for one. And games as a medium for news journalism and editorial are even earlier in their development, with folks like Ian Bogost, Molleindustria, and others helping the form to take it's first steps.

I still recommend it as it's easy enough to ignore the author's assertion here and think about what a "Murrow of Games" would challenge us to do with our "Lights in a Box".

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism (Turning Points in History)

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