Friday, July 14, 2017

Douglas Edwards of CBS News would be 100 years old today

by Larry Miller

Having lived and worked for nearly a decade in Oklahoma broadcasting, I'm almost embarrassed to acknowledge that I did not know that long-time broadcast newsman Douglas Edwards was born there 100 years ago. A native of Ada, Oklahoma, Edwards would pursue a career in broadcast journalism, leaving a superb legacy and inspiring lots of young men and women to enter the world of broadcast news. 

I've always been proud of the profession I chose.  I still am, but I must confess I'm disappointed in many of its 21st century practitioners. 

"Main Stream Media" and "Fair and Balanced" have become cliches, and it's all too easy to witness would-be reporters abandoning objectivity and fairness. A generation earlier, many young journalists would trade in their objectivity for advocacy journalism. After all – they would argue – there's no such thing as true objectivity.  That may be true, but to abandon striving for objectivity and fairness, it seemed to me, was not the answer. At least, it wasn't my approach as I departed the news end of the business for management. 

A good share of my career was with PBS and National Public Radio (NPR) stations.   Public broadcasting is often vilified – particularly National Public Radio – for being liberal and elitist.  I never found the service elitist, but it was and does have a liberal leaning.  Nonetheless, to my mind, it remains among the best organizations for comprehensive and thoughtful news coverage.  I'm pleased that through the Kroc Foundation and other funding sources,  NPR was able to fill the void when commercial networks were withering, closing overseas news bureaus and reducing their international news coverage.  To be sure, they are not the BBC.  But then, even the BBC has lost a lot of its primacy in the world of broadcasting.

I was a fledgling broadcaster when Douglas Edwards was replaced by Walter Cronkite as CBS Evening News anchor in 1962.   I didn't like that change, but I came to respect Cronkite as a class act. Through most of his many years at CBS, Cronkite – to my mind – did not give a clue as to his political persuasion. While that changed in the waning days of the Vietnam War, my most vivid recollection of any perceived "biased" reporting on the CBS Evening News came in the form of frequent Cronkite introductions of Eric Sevareid to provide "analysis." 

By the standards of today, Sevareid's analyses were golden. And they truly were more analysis than opinion – although it was not difficult to often identify the opinion.  They were head a shoulders above what's found today on CNN, Fox, and most other services.  

One hundred years after his birth, it would be interesting to know how Doug Edwards would feel about his old profession today.

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