Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Cutting Off Ed Murrow
No one today gives a thought about reporters being heard and seen live from anywhere in the world or newsmakers appearing electronically. Around the outset of World War Two, it was a very different situation. Newscasts consisted of a newscaster reading. That’s it. No sound of people in the news, no cutaways to reporters on the scene. The technology didn’t really exist to do it otherwise.
War changed that. CBS instituted a World News Roundup in 1938 where correspondents from various parts of the world joined anchor Bob Trout via shortwave to forecast more gathering war clouds. When the war began, the sounds of the Battle of Britain were brought into living rooms by Murrow, eloquently and descriptively, never a word wasted. And it was live.
Here’s an example of Murrow’s mastery of the English language, transcribed in the progressive newspaper PM in its October 21, 1940. Today, it’s astonishing to think someone with the stature of The Great Murrow would be chopped off the air. But, rightfully, he was treated no differently than any other CBS correspondent. He was allotted ‘X’ amount of time on the air and then it was another newsman’s turn.
Columnist John McManus adds something about a Mutual Broadcasting news report by Sigrid Schultz, one of the few women reporters working on an international level at the time.
Radio Tuners Hear London Guns, Air-Raid Sirens in Switzerland
Murrow Reports Raid From London Roof Top . . . Sigrid Schultz Tells of Nazi Invasion Plans, as Air Raid Sirens Wail
By JOHN T. McMANUS
America perched on a London rooftop last night and witnessed, with its own ears and the reliable reporting eyes of CBS's radio correspondent, Ed Murrow, the far-off thud-thud of cannon fire and the indistinct roar of Nazi bombers as London weathered one of the most savage night attacks of the war.
Then, later in the evening, as eerie background for a broadcast from Berne, Switzerland, by the Chicago Tribune’s Berlin correspondent, Sigrid Schultz, over WOR-Mutual, this country heard the sustained shriek of an air-raid siren in full cry for nearly five minutes before it finally growled to silence. Miss Schultz did not mention the siren during her talk, which she was apparently reading from a script timed to the second. But during the talk she told of previous air-raid alarms last night in Berne, “but the fog was so thick we could not tell whose planes were overhead.”
Plan for Conquest
Miss Schultz's broadcast concerned mainly a plan discussed in German newspapers for an immediate invasion of England with the German fleet covering a mass speedboat crossing which could be accomplished in 30 minutes.
The success of the plan, despite the admittedly inferior German fleet, depended on the necessity of the British fleet's being forced to scatter to attempt to cover landing places. This, according to Miss Schultz's sources, was calculated to “disturb, but not prevent” the success of the venture. The cross-Channel invasion would be aided by parachutists landing at strategic points, to hold those points until 1000 great Junkers 52s, each carrying 20 fully equipped infantrymen, landed whole battalions to take over. Miss Schultz made the interesting observation that Germany now has “parachute veterans” who know their way around from experience in previous parachute occupations.
The admitted bug in the whole plan, she quoted, was the inability to hind equipment such as tanks and heavy artillery, both vital to the success of a modern invasion.
Miss Schultz also reported that Germany, in disarming the peoples of the countries “she has occupied or taken under her protection,” had relieved the Norwegians of their beloved fowling pieces and other sport guns.
(The Chicago Tribune bureau in New York explained that Miss Schultz was in Berne at the start of a “leave of absence” from her post in Berlin, during which she intended to go to England. The tone of her broadcast was guarded, indicating that she expects to return to Berlin.)
Thud . . . Thud . . . Thud
Mr. Murrow's broadcast from the London rooftop was cut off by CBS here to bring in correspondents from other points abroad. Here is the text of his broadcast: “It's dark up here, almost impossible to see my own feet. I have no light and no watch, so I’ll just have to ask my colleagues in New York to terminate this broadcast at the end of its allotted period, or when they get tired of it. But the German attack developed tonight with great fury, particularly during the first two hours. Most of the bombing was ‘stick’ bombing rather than salvos, and stick bombing means really that they were coming down in a string of one. two, three, four, falling sometimes about a blink apart, as distinct from the salvo bombing when they all come down in a section.
"There is a bit of haze hanging over London tonight and I can see the cars passing by on the streets below just as two faint eyes that they use for headlights—very small dim lights moving slowly down the street. At the moment, as you can hear, everything is quiet. If that's disappointing to you, certainly it isn't to me. We've had a sufficient amount of noise up here earlier this evening. It's a strange feeling, standing on a rooftop in London tonight. One has the sensation of being suspended in mid-air. That haze down in the street seems like rivers of white smoke flowing down these crooked streets.
“A little earlier in the evening I saw a white ambulance pass by down below and I felt that sometime we would wake from a dream and find that the ambulance had been just a station wagon bringing someone back from a pleasant week end in the country, and when a fire engine went by with its clanging, urgent bell one had the feeling that somehow that maybe it's just a butcher wagon in a country village.
“There’s a little gunfire off to the west. One can see the flash of the guns, but it's too far away to hear them distinctly. You may be able to hear just a dull, thumping noise like someone kicking a tub. (Sound of thudding.) You can hear them very faintly. I can hear a plane moving in on my right now.”
At this point CBS cut Mr. Murrow off to bring in correspondents from elsewhere in Europe.