Murrow: Today he'd seem pretentious

Stephen Baker

I finally saw the Murrow movie, Goodnight and Good Luck. I was struck by the elegance and formality of the language Murrow used, and by the fact that he actually dueled in Shakespeare quotes with Sen. McCarthy. Anchors today would have to take it down a notch, or risk coming across as pretentious.

I get the sense that for a lot of people in Murrow's day, news was about self-improvement, learning about the world, maybe picking up some vocabulary words. Sports, by contrast, were for relaxing. At some point, maybe when many of us stopped wearing ties and dresses to work, the language from sports (and even the funnies) invaded the sanctum of news. If it was easier to understand, and more fun, why not?

It's been very difficult for many news people to navigate this cultural shift. Dan Rather, I think, got caught in between, half of him trying to be a high-thinking Murrow, the other sounding sometimes like Hee Haw.

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