The Murrow Boys were eye-witnesses to history – Daily Press

Award-winning journalist Marvin Kalb was the last reporter hired by legendary news broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, joining the group of journalists who became known as the Murrow Boys.

This second installment of his memoir is a well-written and insightfully crafted tome, “Assignment Russia: Becoming a Foreign Correspondent in the Crucible of the Cold War” (Brookings Institute Press, 352 pgs., $24.99). Kalb explains how he became one of the “Murrow Boys “of CBS News and then got the “wonderful” job as Moscow bureau chief at the age of only 30.

Kalb’s engrossing narrative provides an important window into developing television news through his “Murrow Boys” colleagues and friends. His early experiences in Russia in 1956 and part of 1957 as a Russian-speaking attaché at the American Embassy led to encounters with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who nicknamed him “Peter the Great,” and offers important insight into later Cold War episodes.

Kalb, now 91, was an eye witness to history and his writings about the Soviet Union for numerous CBS news programs helped the network maintain its position at the forefront of the television news. His behind-the-scenes views of a historical period “will soon be lost to living memory,” according to reviewer Kathryn McGarr.

A detailed narrative of his life in the 1950s leads up to how and why he got his Moscow assignment.

For years in Charlotte, N.C., where I grew up, there was only one television station — WBTV, a CBS affiliate — and in the 1950s Murrow and his boys were successfully making the transition from radio to the small screen. Therefore, my youthful interest in national and world news centered about the voices and faces of correspondents like Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Winston Burdett, Richard C. Hottelet, Larry LeSueur and William Downs.

They had been with Murrow since World War II when he put together a team of journalists — CBS correspondents — who broadcasted the story of the European war via radio to America. Others included David Schoenbrun, Daniel Schorr and Kalb, who joined later.

Nevertheless, all the “Boys” all shared Murrow’s code of professional ethics, his pursuit of excellence and his quest for the truth and accuracy. Murrow, who almost singlehandedly created broadcast journalism, hired Kalb and was his subsequent mentor, often calling him “Professor,” perhaps a play on Kalb’s early thoughts of an academic career.

Murrow was the epitome of broadcast journalism during the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The highpoint in radio came in 1940 when his nightly broadcast of the Nazi blitz — the rain of hell from the skies — over the British capital often began with his salutation, “This is London!”

On March 9, 1954, Murrow’s television program, “See It Now,” captured the essence of the vindictive personality of Joseph McCarthy, the junior senator from Wisconsin, and the assaults framed as the “red scare” about communists throughout the U.S. government. Many historians say Murrow’s broadcast, picturing McCarthy in his own words, began the senator’s fall that ultimately led to his censure by his U.S. Senate peers.

In conclusion, there are two books about Murrow that stand out as MUST-reads, especially for war babies like me: The husband and wife team of Stanley Cloud and Lynn Olson-produced “The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism” (Houghton Mifflin) and A.M. Sperber’s biography, “Murrow: His Life and Times,” (Freundlich Books).

Patrick Evans-Hylton has developed a delightful and highly readable exploration of drinking, “Virginia Distilled: Four Centuries of Drinking in the Old Dominion” (The History Press, 240 pgs., $23.99).

Virginia is proclaimed as the “Birthplace of American Spirits.” Evans-Hylton explores early attempts by colonists to make wine. It was at Berkeley Plantation in 1620, he writes, that settler George Thorpe made a raw whiskey from corn. Later planters found they could make three gallons of whiskey from a bushel of corn. Thus, Virginia’s claim to whiskey fame began.

Three years ago, Thorpe was inducted into the Virginia Culinary Hall of Fame for his early efforts.

Today, Kentucky proudly proclaims itself as the bourbon capital of the world. However, when bourbon was first distilled in Bourbon County by Elijah Craig, that county was still part of Virginia. So, bourbon whiskey first came about in Virginia!

Evans-Hylton takes the reader on a trek that provides not only the background, but also the ins and outs of distilling in Virginia. For years the vast number of distilleries in the first 13 colonies was located in the Old Dominion. In fact, George Washington had a very successful distillery in the later years of his life.

“Virginia Distilled” also provides various liquor recipes, along with discussions on the current distillery business in Virginia. Why not sit back, sip a bit and enjoy a good read.

Christopher Newport University’s 40th annual Writers Conference is scheduled for May 6-7 at the Freeman Center on campus and will feature two keynote speakers, poet Luisa A. Igloria and publishing industry expert Steven Salpeter.

For the past 40 years the conference “has brought together people who love words as a hobby and as a vocation. Participants learn from agents, editors, publishers, accomplished authors, poets, professional teachers and from each other,” explained MacKenzie Masterson, assistant director of CNU’s Lifelong Learning Society.

Salpeter is president of Literary and IP Development for Assemble Media, a New York City firm that generates a multi-platform approach to create content that spans film, book, TV and comics. The topic of his Friday, May 6, evening lecture is “How to Talk about Your Writing.”

Igloria is Virginia’s poet laureate and will speak Saturday morning, May 7, on “Opening to the World Again: Writing Poetry from Out of this Time of Vulnerability.”

This year’s program also includes three workshops on getting published, two on writing fiction, four on genre writing and two on creativity.

A concurrent writing contest will include fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young adult fiction.

Friday night’s program begins at 5:30 p.m. and concludes at 8 p.m. with three workshops. Saturday’s day-long program is from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Registration ranges from $30 to $150. Information on the conference can be found at and at (757) 269-4368.

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