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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

Looking for luck

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(10/2017) About four years ago, I was a rising sophomore told that I had to watch the movie "Good Night and Good Luck", which chronicled the events surrounding famous journalist, Edward R. Murrow and his ‘Lights and Wires in a Box’ speech. Instead of watching the movie however, I settled for reading the transcript of the speech, believing that it would give me a better picture than a dramatization. However, in reading my old work—specifically that article—I realize that I have not done Murrow the justice he deserved. I realized that my article relied almost exclusively on block quotes and summarization. This time around I watched the movie after which I binged on clips of Murrow’s broadcasts. From his ‘This is London’ to his reports on the treatment of migrant workers to his historical battle with Junior Senator McCarthy (which is featured in the movie) I was in absolute awe at Murrow’s assessment and presentation of the news. Unfortunately, Murrow’s career ended shortly after his broadcasts on McCarthy. This was due to a variety of circumstances, but it is reported that he disagreed with his network’s (CBS, or Colombia Broadcasting System) increase of entertainment and advertisement segments. I shudder to think what he would think of the sheer number of ads and fluff pieces that run rampant through the public news networks.

After watching "Good Night and Good Luck", I believe that Murrow’s warning went unheeded and that the world today has become the rabbit hole of news. That is not to say that the news is not informative, but rather that it chooses to inform on events that are not entirely newsworthy. An argument can be made that with the growth of technology and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and thousands more suppling the news, the public is educated more on the issues facing our world. However, the information is in overwhelming quantities it is difficult to know where to look and to be sure that what you are looking at is true.

The news has become nation-oriented. This is not a huge problem; as an American living in America I like to know what is happening within the country, but the issues chosen are reported to ad nauseam. Not only that, but new outlets have become so biased and willing to force their beliefs that it is hard not to turn on any news station without feeling as though you’ve tuned into an especially long lecture.

Murrow was part of an age in which the news stood on it is own. Its purpose was to inform the public, not to coddle or entertain it; journalism, and journalists, had integrity and a sense of responsibility to their audience. I have talked at length of unbiased news, however this journalistic responsibility is meant for those moments when unethical practices threaten the public good. Murrow was famously non-partisan in his broadcasts, but the most documented instance in which he chose a side was when he went up against Junior Senator McCarthy during the Junior Senator’s communist witch-hunt in the 1950’s. Even though Murrow took on an extremely controversial subject he did so with a cool, matter-of-fact approach. Now this battle was one of ethics, it is not for the journalist to create some wild story, or to lead a witch hunt of his or her own; rather it is their duty to present the story to the public as it is, and with the evidence provided, let them draw their own conclusions.

Know there is a danger in all of this. Good journalists will face off with parts of humanity that can cause a person to become vain and bitter, but they are also exposed to a lot of the good in the world and they hold in them the power to bring about change. I fear if he could see us today Murrow would say we have turned into a generation of escapists, swaddled and fed entertainment that masquerades as news. We care more for celebrities than we do our fellow man, we care more for causing dissension than finding common ground, and more for arguing and belittling than educating. Looking at the news in the past few years I am appalled by the topics on which we choose to focus. If the amount of coverage that a 40-character tweet receives equaled that of the problem of the illiteracy rates in our country or the dangers of anxiety and depression in college-aged students, wouldn’t we be better for it?

However, I don’t believe everything is as ‘doom and gloom’ as I have made it out to be because I believe there is still time to turn this around; and address those my own age and younger who are pursuing journalism. Media is shifting farther and faster than ever before and the rules are up to us to make. We should strive to provide a legacy of not of the vapid, complacent, generation Murrow feared we would turn into and that previous generations think we already are. Instead we should aim to create a flow of information that teaches those around us about the world at large. It is our duty to take people out of themselves and see the world is a brilliant place; a brilliant place full of life and lives that long to connect with each other. It is our job then to provide that connection and if we fail at seeking and providing truth to the world around us then "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves".

Read other articles by Sarah Muir