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Remembering Bob Edwards, Peabody Award-winning broadcast journalist


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. Longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition, Bob Edwards, died on Saturday from heart failure and complications of bladder cancer. He was 76. At the end of his final Morning Edition, Edwards had this to say.


BOB EDWARDS: I have been hosting programs on NPR for 30 years - 5 1/2 years on All Things Considered, 24 years and six months on Morning Edition. But this program is the last I shall host.

MOSLEY: Bob Edwards was commonly thought of as having the voice we woke up to, and his 2004 removal as an NPR host did not go over well with listeners. An avalanche of letters followed, most in protest of the decision. After a brief stint as a senior correspondent for NPR, he went on to host his own interview show on Sirius XM. During his career, Edwards won a Peabody, a duPont-Columbia Award for journalism and an Edward R. Murrow Award. Terry first spoke with Edwards in 1993 about his book "Fridays With Red." It was about his long on-air relationship with the great sportscaster Red Barber. But Barber wouldn't just talk about sports. He would often spend more time talking about his camellias, his cats and the weather. Terry asked Edwards if, early on, he was panicked by the sidetracks and tried to make Red stick to sports.


EDWARDS: I panicked early on because Red would turn it around. Red would ask me questions. Red would throw me curveballs. I wasn't ready for any of that. I was ready for an interview. But Red got me back into just relaxing and enjoying the conversation. But it took years. I wasn't comfortable with it for a long time. I dreaded it because I wasn't willing to just relax and be myself. It took Red to teach me to do that once again.

TERRY GROSS: So, but, now, early on, when Red Barber would go off track and talk about the camellias or what the weather was like in Tallahassee, would you nervously try to bring him back into focus about sports, the subject of the commentary?

EDWARDS: Sometimes, but sometimes I'd just do it for fun because, you know, Red would go off about the flowers, and just for effect, I'd say, hey, how about those Dodgers? - Just to get the laugh, because I knew he was going to continue to go on about the flowers and the cats and all that. And I was enjoying it, too. It also played very well with the audience. They loved it. They loved hearing about the weather in Tallahassee and the squirrels and the mockingbirds and the whole thing. And I wasn't going to argue with what my listeners liked. No way. If that's what they wanted to hear from Red, fine. We'll talk about cats.

GROSS: How did he start calling you Colonel?

EDWARDS: Well, he called me a lot of things. He called me Robbit. R-O-B-B-I-T is how I spell that, Robbit. But he heard that I was a Kentucky Colonel, as most Kentuckians are, and probably you are, too, Terry. If not, we can take care of that.

GROSS: What is a Kentucky Colonel?

EDWARDS: Oh, it's our little honorific in Kentucky. A member of the Colonels will write to the governor and ask that the governor commission a friend, an associate, and it's no big deal. They send off the commission. Various states have this. In Maryland, they make you a Admiral of the Chesapeake. And in Indiana, they make you a Sagamore of the Wabash. Well, in Kentucky they make you a Colonel. So he started calling me Colonel. It was the Southern thing, I think.

GROSS: Now, how'd you feel about it at first before it really stuck?

EDWARDS: Well, when Red Barber gives you a nickname, I think it's a compliment. And, you know, he gave a lot of the Dodgers their nicknames. So I didn't think it was a bad deal. And when you're a pretty straight-laced news anchor, I think it's kind of nice to have a nickname. You won't take yourself too seriously, though.

GROSS: In a way, having a nickname for that spot gave you a - in a way, the ability to have two different personalities - you know, one for the news and one for your chats with Red.

EDWARDS: That's right. Suddenly, the Colonel would be there.

GROSS: That's right, your alter ego.

When the Gulf War started, there was a debate at NPR about whether Red Barber should be preempted because of the solemnity of - you know, the gravity of the war. Was there really time in the broadcast to talk about what game was coming up that week? You argued that Red should be on. Why did you think he should be on? And tell us about that first broadcast that he did during the war.

EDWARDS: I didn't think that we should change anything just because there was a war on. You know, there's a place for Red Barber, and Red Barber served. He was not in uniform himself, but he was very, very proud of his work during World War II during blood drives. When Red Barber sent out the call that the Brooklyn Red cross needed blood donors, they lined around the block, and then Manhattan was calling him up and saying, would you please send him over here? So he made another announcement, and they were filled to capacity in Manhattan. He was very proud of that. He was very proud of his USO tours going through Vietnam.

So, you know, Red had a place, and he knew the context of sports in society and said so. So his commentary that day was all about the history of sport at time of war and whether it was appropriate to play games and whether it wasn't and under what circumstances. And he ended it all with the 90th Psalm, which has to do with the folly of war. It was just a magnificent performance, I think.

GROSS: Was this the first time that you'd lost someone who you had that kind of close professional relationship with?

EDWARDS: Professionally, I guess, yes. I mean, certainly people I've interviewed over the years have died, but not - so I thought of Red as my surrogate father. You know, Donald Hall, the poet and essayist, says that the baseball is fathers playing catch with sons. And I thought, that's what Red and I were doing for 12 years over the radio. We were playing catch. We were throwing the ball back and forth, and sometimes he'd zing one in there, and sometimes he'd throw a knuckler and see if I could handle it. And I miss that. And it's just like when my father died and there were things I wanted to tell him. And I'd even go to the phone and realize I can't talk to him anymore. And that's how it is with Red.

GROSS: With Red Barber, you wrote an obituary that you gave on the year. What did you do when you were trying to find a comfortable tone to take for the interview, so that it would have your sentiment without being heavy on the sentimentality?

EDWARDS: Well, I knew what the last line was, and I started with the last line. And I knew how much time I had. So - I also knew I had to catch a plane pretty soon. So I just put paper in the typewriter and fired away.

GROSS: What was the last line that you knew?

EDWARDS: The Colonel says goodbye.

GROSS: I'm interested in talking with you a little bit about your work at NPR. You were the first on-air host of Morning Edition, but you weren't supposed to be the first host of the show.

EDWARDS: No. The program had been a year in the planning, and I'll tell you who the hosts were because they've done right well for themselves - Pete Williams, now of NBC News...

GROSS: Oh, a former - better known to most people as the Pentagon spokesperson during the war...

EDWARDS: That's right.

GROSS: ...During the Gulf War.

EDWARDS: And Mary Tillotson of CNN. And they were the hosts. The program - they didn't get around to doing a pilot for the stations to hear until very close to the date that they were due to go on. Maybe it was a week or two before, and what - the program they put out for the stations to hear was just a disaster. I think the best way to describe it - it was very chatty. It was nothing that a listener who was used to All Things Considered would like. And NPR did something that it had never done before and hasn't done too many times since. It fired people. It fired the executive producer, the producer and both hosts. And I've always thought that was unfair to the host 'cause I think they were doing the program that they were told to do. As it turns out, the hosts did all right for themselves.

GROSS: Right.

EDWARDS: They're making serious bucks today.

GROSS: So now, how did the job fall to you after everybody else was fired?

EDWARDS: Well, they had no hosts, and they were still committed to going on the air on November 5, 1979. And they had told the stations that, and the stations had promoted the program. Oh, big, new program coming November 5, you know? So they had to put a program on. And so they came to me. I was doing All Things Considered with Susan then, and they asked me to do it for 30 days. They said do it for 30 days until we get a new host. And I said, OK. I'm thinking, well, hey, they'll owe me one.


EDWARDS: Fool that I was. And 30 days has turned into 14 years.

GROSS: Well, you write in your new book that initially you and Susan Stamberg resented the development of Morning Edition because you knew that show would be competing with your show, All Things Considered, for limited resources at NPR.

EDWARDS: Well, of course. We were top dog, you know? We didn't want any competition in house. And so when the pilot bombed, we just kind of smiled.


GROSS: Well...

EDWARDS: Didn't reflect on us.

GROSS: ...Was there a friction between your new show, Morning Edition, and your old show, All Things Considered, when Morning Edition actually went on the air?

EDWARDS: Well, of course there was. The - we didn't have that many reporters in those days. And this new program was supposed to get along without reporters, without the staff that we had reporting for All Things Considered. Well, you know, how long did that last? Of course, we were going to use those reporters. And that meant that if they were filing for us, maybe they didn't have time to do a story for All Things Considered that day. So, yeah. Plus the attention goes to the new guy. It's the newer program that management stakes its reputation to. So we were the fair-haired boy. The new program.

GROSS: When you were on All Things Considered, co-anchor with Susan Stamberg, you were sometimes, in a way, in the role of the straight man.

EDWARDS: Yeah. It was good training for Red.

GROSS: Well, how does your - how did your on-air personality change, do you think, when you were on your own?

EDWARDS: It changed a lot. I worked very well with Susan, and we had it down. We knew each other's strengths and each other's faults, and we could cover the faults and play to the strengths. But with Susan, she's so good. She's just so good that I didn't have to extend myself very much at all. I could always fall back on her. And, you know, working with Susan was marvelous, I enjoyed it. I have very happy memories of it. But every now and then, you got to make a change. And this was, you know, I needed to grow, and it helped me grow. And goodness knows it wasn't the hours that were attractive.

GROSS: What are your hours?

EDWARDS: I get up at 1:30 in the morning, and I'm in the office by 2:30, and I go home at noon or 12:30.

GROSS: That's a long day.

EDWARDS: Yes it is. Yes it is.

GROSS: It's actually a long night and a short day.

EDWARDS: I go to sleep at 7, and my children tuck me in, and it's tough. They get to stay up, and I have to go to bed. And that's the part I don't like.

GROSS: What hours do you have for family time?

EDWARDS: I get the afternoons, of course, which is real nice in the summer, when the children are there. I think in some ways, though, I might get more time with my children than a 9-to-5 dad because they come home exhausted, and after they've had dinner, the children have maybe a 9 o'clock bedtime, and there's, you know, a very brief window in there. I've got them in the late afternoons and for, you know, an hour in the early evening. So I think possibly I do better that way.

GROSS: You change your hours on the weekend?

EDWARDS: Yes. I'm a normal person on the weekend.

GROSS: Don't you have jetlag all the time, then?

EDWARDS: Yes. Exactly right. That's exactly what it feels like. It's permanent jetlag.

GROSS: You've said that one of the drawbacks of getting up in the middle of the night is that you're driving through the streets just as the bars are closing, and you've had some pretty close calls.

EDWARDS: Yeah. I've had some that were too close. I got hit one night by a drunk driver that...

GROSS: On the way to work?

EDWARDS: ...Ran a red light. Yeah. And she was a 19-year-old, and she had a fight with her boyfriend or something - I don't know - she was drunk - and just was blasted me right in the passenger side. And a brand-new car - I was still on the dealer's tank of gas.

GROSS: Whoa.

EDWARDS: Yeah, totaled it.

GROSS: Now, were you hurt?

EDWARDS: No. No, it's a tank, and I always wear a seatbelt. So...

GROSS: Did you go to work afterwards?

EDWARDS: Not that day. I was shook up. But the next day, I did. But I see something every night. I see people with no headlights on. I see people going the wrong way on a one-way street. It's astonishing how many drunk drivers are out there. Three times on an interstate, I've had people come at me on the wrong side of an interstate. That's really scary 'cause then you have to guess real fast, left or right, which way am I going? And you realize that you're trying to second-guess a drunk. There's no logic there.

MOSLEY: Bob Edwards speaking with Terry Gross in 1993. The longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition died on Saturday at the age of 76. We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: If you're just joining us, we're listening to Terry's 1993 interview with Bob Edwards, the longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition. He died on Saturday from heart failure and complications of bladder cancer. He was 76.


GROSS: What was your very first radio job? Or I shouldn't use the word job, maybe. Maybe you didn't get paid at the very beginning, like most people in public radio didn't get paid when they started.

EDWARDS: I hung out at a tiny little station in New Albany, Ind., a commercial station that was right across the river from Louisville. But I don't think the signal reached there unless a breeze was blowing right - was a day-timer and only 1,000 watts. And I went on the air. I hung out every day for a couple of months, and the police came in one day and busted the guy on the air for nonsupport, and that's how I got into radio. I sat in his chair and took over his program.

GROSS: What, paternity support?



GROSS: Well, this is a variation on the would-be leading lady where the real leading lady gets a broken leg. Yeah. All right, so what was the first show?

EDWARDS: Well, it was spinning records, and it was doing the DJ...

GROSS: What kind of music?

EDWARDS: Easy listening.

GROSS: Easy listening?

EDWARDS: The world's most beautiful music.

GROSS: Oh, no. Did you like that music?

EDWARDS: Well, I jazzed it up a bit. I threw in some Ellington and Basie. They were - you know, Sinatra was about as hip as they got. But I put in a little more up-tempo stuff.

GROSS: What was the worst stuff you had to play?

EDWARDS: Oh, Mantovani, I guess - very syrupy stuff, you know, the pealing violins and very lush arrangements and all that.

GROSS: And what voice did you use to back-announce Mantovani?

EDWARDS: Oh, I was ordered to use this very, very, what? I was pontificating, (imitating formal accent) I was very formal - very, very, very formal.

But that was orders. That went with the music. So that's what I had to do. Couldn't be myself. And that just never works. You have to be yourself on radio.

GROSS: Now, you were drafted in 1969, and you ended up anchoring Army broadcasts of the 6 o'clock news in Seoul.


GROSS: How did you get the job? Was this the first time you were on the air or was this after your middle-of-the-road stint?

EDWARDS: I was terrified of the Army because of the war, and I didn't want any part of it. So what I did was - it's the one time that you should not be shy, when you're drafted. I told them I was Cronkite.

GROSS: (Laughter).

EDWARDS: I told them, if they didn't have me in broadcasting, boy, were they missing out. I mean, gosh, what a waste of my talent. What I was trying to do is, you know, keep from fighting in Nam, and it worked. I didn't even go to Army school. Right after basic training, they had me doing training tapes in Georgia and later the news in Korea.

GROSS: How objective was the Army broadcasts of the news?

EDWARDS: They kept their hands off of us because they didn't want to be seen as being heavy-handed. They censored us only where Korean news was - you know, when I was doing something about Korea, they would censor that because they wanted to be diplomatic with the host country. Well, the guys over there didn't want to know about Korea anyway. They wanted to know what was going on in the United States to the point where the Pentagon Papers were the hot story at the time. And I did a documentary on it, and the Army didn't even read it. I mean, they left me completely alone because they didn't want to seem, you know, heavy-handed. And it didn't concern Korea, so they didn't care. If I'd been in Nam, it would have been different.

GROSS: Did you wear a uniform for the broadcast?

EDWARDS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, wore my green suit, and I was Army specialist Bob Edwards.

GROSS: Now, how did you get to National Public Radio?

EDWARDS: I was fired from the Mutual Broadcasting System.

GROSS: For...

EDWARDS: Union activity.

GROSS: Were you an organizer or a foreman?

EDWARDS: Was and still am. I'm national vice president of AFTRA...


EDWARDS: ...The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. And the fellow that was running Mutual was getting rid of everybody, was a big union man. I say man, they weren't women then. And so when I was fired, I just picked up the phone book and called everything that had radio in its name. I didn't know much about NPR, but they brought me over here and put me on the air that night.

GROSS: Doing?

EDWARDS: The 8 o'clock news insert within All Things Considered.

GROSS: So you started off as a newscaster.

EDWARDS: Uh-huh.

GROSS: And how long did it take till you were co-anchor?

EDWARDS: Oh, about six months. And that was February '74 when I started doing the newscast and August when I started hosting.

GROSS: It's very impressive the way you can hit the time clock and get out of an interview just in the nick of time. What are the polite ways of telling somebody that their time is up and you got to get out?

EDWARDS: Oh, you mean when we're live...

GROSS: Yeah, when you're live.

EDWARDS: ...And they're running long...

GROSS: Right.

EDWARDS: ...And you thought you were going to get the 30-second answer and you get the minute-and-a-half answer?


EDWARDS: Well, I remember once when I asked one of those answers - one of those questions and then the person had been giving me nice, neat, little 30-second answers. And then - and when I took a chance and thought I'd work one more in, he said, and there are five reasons for this.

GROSS: (Laughter).

EDWARDS: And I said, and we'd like to hear each and every one of them, unfortunately - but I think that's the one time I got out of it with any grace, at all. Usually it's, Senator, Senator, we really have - Senator. Goodbye, Senator. It's 19 minutes past.

GROSS: Well, Bob Edwards, it's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for talking with us.

EDWARDS: A pleasure for me, too. Thank you.

MOSLEY: Bob Edwards speaking with Terry Gross in 1993. The longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition died on Saturday at the age of 76. Coming up, we'll hear another interview he recorded with Terry in 2004 after his book about Edward R. Murrow was published. I'm Tonya Mosley, and this is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. We're remembering Bob Edwards, the longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition, who died on Saturday. Terry interviewed Edwards a second time in 2004 about his book on Edward R. Murrow, the man he described as broadcast journalism's patron saint and first great star. They began with a reading from his book "Edward R. Murrow And The Birth Of Broadcast Journalism."


EDWARDS: (Reading) Murrow's obituaries mentioned that he seemed a courtly prince who nevertheless championed the underdog, a sophisticated man with a common touch. Variety said he had brought television to maturity. He was hailed for his unrelenting search for truth. The tributes pointed out that he had led CBS to greatness, only to become expendable when his principles clashed with management. It fell to Murrow's biographers, however, to explore some of the deeper contradictions in his life, including the black moods and daylong silences that frequently haunted a man who had so many reasons to be happy. The man who oozed confidence on the air was a nervous wreck when about to begin a broadcast. The shot of whiskey he'd have to calm his nerves at airtime failed to stop his cold sweat or keep him from jiggling his leg in a continuous nervous tic.

America's foremost broadcast journalist put so much weight on his own shoulders that he could never be at peace. He was a driven man who demanded more of himself than he could possibly deliver. Murrow lived by a code too rigid for mere humans to meet. He expected more of himself and others. Murrow's glass was always half empty. He felt the gloom of having his idealism shattered by reality.

GROSS: That's Bob Edwards reading from his new book, "Edward R. Murrow And The Birth Of Broadcast Journalism." Bob, welcome back to FRESH AIR. You were asked to write a book for this series of biographies. Why did you choose Edward Murrow as your subject? Were you aware of him in his own time as a broadcaster, or was it only after that that you started to be aware of him and admire him so much?

EDWARDS: Oh, no. I listened to him on the radio and saw him on television when I was a kid. And maybe I didn't understand all of the nuances of his insights into the Eisenhower administration, but on one level, it was very easy to relate to him, being a kid. He was cool. He was so cool. He looked great, he sounded fabulous, and I wanted to do that because of him. Now, later, of course, I appreciated what he did in his McCarthy broadcast. And, of course, all of his wartime reporting was before my time 'cause I'm postwar. And to get into those - into the transcripts of his broadcasts and see how he wrote and the imagery, which I'm no good at at all - I mean, he wrote beautiful word pictures. And the sound of them - he was a speech major in college, and I think that helped a lot. When he spoke, it was theater. It was - oh, I just wanted to do that, you know?

GROSS: Now, Ed Murrow didn't set out to be a broadcaster. He was sent to Europe to arrange broadcasts by others for the Institute of International Education, which was part of the Carnegie Endowment. And even in his early days with CBS, he was supposed to arrange for newspaper reporters to actually do the reporting. Was it Murrow's idea to put himself on the air?

EDWARDS: No, I think it just kind of happened, and New York didn't complain, and it was so successful, that first broadcast in the spring of - was it March of 1938, when the Nazis marched into Austria and annexed Austria? That's the real beginning of the war. And they had to just go on the air and do a broadcast. And Shirer wasn't supposed to be on the air either. He was a - he was, you know, Murrow's man on the continent of Europe. And he was to arrange broadcasts. But out of this emergency, they became the genesis of the CBS overseas reporting staff. And they were so good at it that they just kept on reporting the war and adding these other newspaper reporters to the staff.

GROSS: One of Murrow's now-famous broadcasts was part of a special program called London After Dark, that CBS radio broadcast on August 24, 1940. He was reporting from Trafalgar Square. What's the importance, do you think, of this particular broadcast?

EDWARDS: A couple of things. When Hitler started bombing England, he first chose military targets, bases and the docks and that sort of thing, and then he upgraded it and just scatter-bombed all over all the cities of England to terrify the population in hopes that they would ask Churchill to surrender and, you know, just stop this, stop this awful bombing. And Murrow was trying to illustrate that it wasn't working. And he was on - he's at Trafalgar Square, and he's recording people calmly walking to the bomb shelters, not running, not in a panic. He wanted that message out there, so he put the microphone down on the ground and recorded footsteps. He was very conscious of the - you know, for a guy with no background in either journalism or radio, he was conscious of the fact that he was writing for the ear and this broadcast was to reach you by ear, sound. So he would let you hear the footsteps of Englanders walking calmly to the bomb shelter. I thought that was very prescient of him. He knew he was in radio. This was something different. This was not the printed page. It was for the ear.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear some of that report by Edward R. Murrow, August 24, 1940, from Trafalgar Square?


EDWARD R MURROW: This is Trafalgar Square. The noise that you hear at the moment is the sound of the air raid sirens. I'm standing here just on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. A searchlight just burst into action off in the distance, one single beam sweeping the sky above me now. People are walking along quite quietly. We're just at the entrance of an air raid shelter here, and I must move this cable over just a bit so people can walk in. There's another searchlight just square behind Nelson's statue.

GROSS: That was Edward R. Murrow recorded in 1940. My guest is Bob Edwards, who's written a new biography of Edward R. Murrow. Bob, you mentioned in your book that Murrow reported on the bomb shelters, but he didn't usually go to the bomb shelters himself. Why not?

EDWARDS: He was afraid that he would get used to it, that whenever the bombs fell, he would go running for the shelter if he went that first time. So he would go and do stories of people in the shelters, but he would not go there to seek refuge from the bombs himself. He had enormous courage, not just from bombs, but from other things that came along later, like McCarthy or even his own bosses. But he would be up on the rooftop in the middle of the bombing of London so he could report on it, and he would go around town in an open car so he could see the damage and report on the stories at ground level.

GROSS: Yeah, I - the - reporting from the rooftop, that really amazes me. You know, German bombers are flying overhead, and he's on a rooftop in London reporting on what he sees. That really takes courage. It must have been difficult to get permission to do that 'cause he needed the permission of the British to do it. What was it like for him to get permission, and what kind of guidelines did they lay down for him?

EDWARDS: Well, first, they didn't want him to do it at all because they thought that the Germans could hone in on him or use him as some kind of beacon or locator to direct bombing. He was on the rooftop of Broadcasting House, a BBC building in London, and they thought that he would make that building a target. Well, later on, I mean, it got hit a bunch of times, and a lot of Murrow's colleagues at the BBC were killed as a result.

But on this particular night that he first went up there, you know, it - he had mixed emotions about it. He was kind of ambivalent because, you know, it was, again, a live broadcast. And New York threw the signal to Murrow on that rooftop at, you know, probably 7 o'clock in the evening or something like that - New York time, five hours later in London.

And all hell had been going on until a minute to air, and then the bombing stopped (laughter). And he's thinking, you know, is this good or bad? - because they can't hear the bombs. They could hear the anti-aircraft fire, and you hear a lot of that. So you do get some war sounds, and you hear the police whistles or the air raid warden whistles, and you hear sirens and the like, but you don't hear actual bombs. But he wanted the bang-bang, of course, because it was a radio.

And the British government relented on permission to have Murrow on the rooftop. And I think it was Churchill's doing personally because Churchill wanted America to know what was going on and what Britons were taking from Hitler's Germany. This was good PR, propaganda, if you will, for England. He was really appealing for help and using Murrow to do that.

GROSS: Bob, what was the impact of these broadcasts on Americans? And this is, you know, before America entered the war?

EDWARDS: That's right, and they were enormously helpful to Churchill and England. And at one point, Roosevelt sent Harry Hopkins, his close aide, over to London, and he arranged a meeting with Murrow. And Murrow thought, well, this is great. I'm going to get an interview with Harry Hopkins. This will be very useful. No, that wasn't it. Hopkins wanted to interview Murrow. Murrow was the first guy he talked to when he went to London before he talked to anyone in the British government. Why? - because he wanted to pick Murrow's brain. He wanted to know what was going on in England, who to see, who not to see, who was really in charge, who were the movers and shakers and players and who had the best information on what was going on. That's a tribute to Murrow's influence, command of information. But those broadcasts - I mean, that's what Roosevelt was hearing. He was hearing Murrow's broadcasts from the rooftop and everywhere else in London.

MOSLEY: Bob Edwards speaking with Terry Gross in 2004. The longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition died on Saturday. We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, we're remembering Bob Edwards, the longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition who died on Saturday. Let's get back to the interview Terry recorded with Edwards in 2004 about his book "Edward R. Murrow And The Birth Of Broadcast Journalism."


GROSS: After World War II, Murrow becomes vice president and director of public affairs at CBS. He assembles a news team. Most of them go on to become some of the most famous people in broadcasting journalism. He moves from radio to television, helps define what television news is. And then, of course, he's covering things during the McCarthy era. And one of the things he's asked to do at CBS is to sign a loyalty oath. And I think a lot of his colleagues were expecting him to refuse, but he didn't refuse. Why didn't he refuse?

EDWARDS: I think he picked his battles, and he thought that one was too big, and he could fight McCarthyism and the whole anti-communist hysteria in other ways, which he certainly did with his broadcast on "See It Now," which was really the end - the beginning of the end - of Joe McCarthy and his demagoguery.

What Murrow did was to assemble a whole bunch of film of McCarthy, illustrating his methods, and that's - that was a revelation to most Americans who only knew about this from newspapers, and newspapers can't give you a good account of this. You know, Senator McCarthy said this, but somebody else said that. And, you know, you really don't get a flavor of what this guy was about and how he badgered people and just the unfairness of the whole prosecutorial process that he conducted and how you were really guilty until proven innocent, and you had no shot at proving your innocence.

So that's what Murrow did, exposed him in that way and then showed you a huge stack of newspapers and representing editorials against McCarthy and another stack of newspapers, you know, that favored him - a much, much smaller stack - and then did his closing commentary, which was unlike anything television ever did before, and certainly since. It was a one-of-a-kind. It was a blatant editorial and just devastating. And...

GROSS: What did he say that was so devastating?

EDWARDS: Oh, (reading) no one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigation and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind between the internal and external threat of communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were, for the moment, unpopular.

You know, Ed Bliss told me - he was in New York once, and he saw someone coming at him that he thought, this was not good, this was - this person was going to do him harm. And he thought of crossing the street and mingling with a bigger crowd of people and getting away from this guy. And he remembered Murrow's words, we will not walk in fear one of another. So he didn't cross the street, and he got mugged.

GROSS: (Laughter) Oh, gee, what's the moral of that story?

EDWARDS: The moral is that story. The moral of the story is be a little more practical...

GROSS: Right.

EDWARDS: ...And a little less hero worshipping.

GROSS: Well, that's great. So what did CBS have to say about this? As you pointed out, this is editorializing.

EDWARDS: Yeah. For one thing, they didn't promote the program. Murrow and his co-producer and partner, Fred W. Friendly, bought the - they used their personal money to buy a full-page ad in The New York Times to promote the program. CBS was not pleased. Of course, they said, you know, this was great, and thank you so much, but they didn't promote the program. And they didn't like controversy.

Bill Paley - the founding chairman of CBS - and Murrow were very close. They were - they had a relationship that was not boss-worker, forged during the war. But after the war, it was different. CBS became this big, diversified company. Profits and the price of a share of stock were what was important, and they were in the entertainment business. And here was Murrow doing all these controversial programs. Paley told Murrow, your programs give me stomach aches. And Murrow told Paley, well, it goes with the job. And ultimately, "See It Now," Murrow's great news vehicle, was canceled, and Murrow was moved to the margins of CBS because he was just too controversial.

GROSS: Now you have the kind of voice that people describe as a great radio voice, and I'm wondering if your voice influenced your decision to go into radio, or whether that was just a kind of happy coincidence that you had such a great voice and you were interested in radio?

EDWARDS: I think it helped. When I was a kid in school, they always called on me to read aloud. And...

GROSS: Did you have a deep voice as a kid? Like, before...


GROSS: ...Your voice changed, what did it...


GROSS: ...Sound like?

EDWARDS: I was always getting calls, people calling for my dad and thinking that I was him. And, no, no, you want my dad. Let me get him. In church, I was asked to read aloud. So I think that helped. That gave me a lot of confidence and made me think, well, you know, I ought to find a career that - in which I can do this.

GROSS: So your voice did influence going into radio?

EDWARDS: I think so. Yeah. I mean, as a little kid, I always was intrigued by radio and loved radio and wanted to be in radio. And then Murrow, you know, I wanted to be cool, like Murrow. And then reading aloud in class, and they would always call on me, and I could read pretty well. You know, kids have trouble reading aloud in class. I never did, I warmed - I was on. And so, you know, put all that together. And then the '60s. The '60s definitely focused me on news as opposed to any other jobs in broadcasting, because look what was going on while I was in college, from '65 to '69, Civil Rights, cities were on fire, Vietnam, the Democratic Convention of '68, assassinations of, you know, Kennedy and King and - that was just such an awful - you had the invasion of Czechoslovakia by...

GROSS: Yeah. Sure.

EDWARDS: ...The Soviet Union.

GROSS: Sure.

EDWARDS: I wanted to be part of the discussion, but not a participant, not a partisan. And news was the way that I could do that.

GROSS: Well, Bob, thank you. It's really been a pleasure to talk with you.

EDWARDS: It's been great fun, Terry. Thank you.

MOSLEY: Bob Edwards speaking with Terry Gross in 2004. The longtime host of NPR's Morning Edition died on Saturday. He was 76.

Coming up, John Powers reviews "Perfect Days," the latest film by German director Wim Wenders. This is FRESH AIR.


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