Monday, October 13, 2008

Edward R. Murrow Could See the Future

“Our history will be what we make it.” That is what Edward R. Murrow believed in 1958 when he spoke in Chicago to address the annual convention of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. That’s as true and as honest as it gets.

It has been over 50 years since American’s started receiving news over the airwaves and on screens in their homes. The boxes full of wires and light broadcasted the stories of the American people and of people all over the world. And, that world which was once so big became a little smaller once television came into our lives.

Today, the television is still a staple of American life – but, for different reasons. There are Saturday morning cartoons, Thursday night prime-time, daily talk shows, and so much more. It’s all entertainment – minus a few specialty news stations such as CNN and C-SPAN.

I hate to think we’re a society that dug its own grave when it comes to educating its public in a swift and productive way. Murrow would hate to see that we haven’t changed at all. The year 2008 is exactly what he said it was going to be, so why didn’t we try to change it before now?

American’s have become a nation of couch potatoes, according to a May 2008 article on The future of television is not only in sitcom programming but online. First radio, then television, and now the internet – can we ever just settle and focus on one thing at a time? I think that’s our problem. We keep looking for active change when what we really need is to fix one thing and not create new problems.

The attempt to “fix” what is aired on network television is a definite failure. Murrow would not be proud. Day after day, reality television trash is aired and consumed by the American public strictly for entertainment purposes. We’ve lost all sight on the things that are important. We’ve even attempted to desensitize the news. This, in itself, is the problem that needs to be remedied.

“I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers,” Murrow said. That’s the prescription for the problem we still have 50 years later. American brains have been numbed by what they watch. Often times, what is aired is not of the most valuable importance. This is where the heads of the major broadcasting corporations are cheating the American public. And somehow, we let them get away.

Well, I say, no more. We can’t. We’ve let this go on for far too long. Murrow put it the best when he said television is an instrument that can teach, illuminate, and even inspire, “But, it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends.” He was right. So, that’s what we have to do. We have to seize control and make it happen.

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