National Press Club

Tweeting with Edward R. Murrow on "Kalb Report" at journalism convention in Florida

September 26, 2012 | By Gilbert Klein |

Would legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow be tweeting if he were working in journalism today?

When “The Kalb Report,” the National Press Club’s, radio and television show, launched its 19th season Sept. 22 at the Radio and Television Digital News Association and Society for Professional Journalism convention in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., that was one question host Marvin Kalb lofted to the leading journalists on his panel.

Murrow, who practically invented broadcast news during World War II and the 1950s, was such a journalism innovator that Kalb focused the show on both his legacy for fair and accurate reporting and the impact that new technological changes are having on news gathering.

“I think Edward R. Murrow would have used Twitter because it amplifies the story,” said CBS News correspondent Erin Moriarty. Twitter has been a boon to the industry because it allows viewers and readers to respond to a story and contribute information, she said.

Murrow’s son, Casey, said his father absolutely would have embraced Twitter because he loved new technology and its use in journalism.

But, Dean Baquet, managing editor of the New York Times, said new technology is putting tremendous stress on quality news reporting. Staff cuts required by falling revenue and the public’s demand for 24-hour instant coverage on the Internet have made print journalism significantly weaker than it was five or six years ago, he said.

“It’s really difficult to put out a quality news report that does what the web demands,” Baquet said. Time for serious reporting to put breaking news in perspective has been slashed.

Murrow was fair, but he was not concerned with balance, said biographer and radio host Bob Edwards. Murrow would not give all arguments equal weight because he refused to listen to liars, Edwards said.

Edwards does not think that TV news lived up to Murrow’s expectation that it become more than just “lights in a box.”

Asked if CBS would hire someone like Murrow today, Moriarty said, “He would probably have to be good-looking.” He most likely would work for “60 Minutes,” she said, because the show is devoted to thorough analysis of major issues, similar to Murrow’s broadcasts.

Before the show began, Richard C. Hottelet, the last surviving member of Murrow’s famous World War II reporting team, was connected to the convention by phone for the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to mark his 95th year.

The Kalb Report is a joint project of the Club, the University System of Maryland, the Philip Merrill School of Journalism, George Washington University and Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. It is underwritten by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

-- Compiled from reports by Katie O’Donnell of the Radio and Television Digital News Association and Mary Kenney of the Society of Professional Journalists.