Edwards criticizes corporate radio control

Increasing corporate control over the media has reduced the diversity of opinions in the media and caused a decline in the quality of journalism, broadcast journalist and AU alumnus Bob Edwards said Friday night in Bender Arena.

Edwards, the host of "The Bob Edwards Show" on XM Satellite Radio, said that when he started working in radio, a company couldn't own more than five radio stations. "Now some of them own 1,250," he said.

Edwards, who spoke to raise money for a journalism scholarship, said that aside from reducing the diversity of voices, corporations "want their news media divisions to make as much as their theme parks."

However, that sort of commercialism hadn't yet crept into public radio, he said.

"At NPR, there is a firewall between underwriters and journalists," said Edwards, the former host of the National Public Radio show "Morning Edition."

Commercial interests destroyed many great journalists, including broadcast journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow, Edwards said. Murrow was a CBS correspondent during World War II, and continued to work until the early '60s when he lost his sponsors and his show was cancelled.

Edwards recently wrote a biography, "Edmund R. Morrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism," for "a generation and a half who don't know that we once did this thing better than we do now, this thing called broadcast journalism."

Edwards said that Murrow's World War II reports from London were exceptional because for the first time, Americans got to hear a war. During Murrow's radio report, "you heard bombs dropping and police sirens," Edwards said.

Edwards also described Murrow's work during the McCarthy era. Thanks to Murrow's reporting on the issue the public got to see "McCarthy in action" for the first time and this resulted in a fall in McCarthy's approval ratings, Edwards said.

Previously, people knew about Sen. Joe McCarthy's senatorial committees outing communists only through newspapers.

Edwards called this incident "the beginning of the end" for Murrow because his controversial broadcasts where starting to conflict with corporate interests.

Edwards also spoke about his own departure from NPR.

"I would have stayed at NPR all my life. ... Now I have found a new home," he said. In late April, Edwards was demoted to senior correspondent and then left NPR to join XM Satellite Radio.

The Bob Edwards event helped to raise money for the Ed Bliss journalism scholarship at AU. Bliss, who founded AU's journalism program and taught the first broadcast journalism course at the University, was a mentor and professor to Edwards. His mentor had worked on assignments from renowned anchors that included Murrow, Lowell Tomas and Walter Cronkite as well as producer Fred Friendly. The scholarship now totals $30,000, SOC Dean Larry Kirkman said.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle

Would you like to support our work? Donate here to The Eagle Innovation Fund.