Monthly Archives: November 2011

“Good Night and Good Luck”

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The last two introduction to journalism class periods we watched the movie “Good Night and Good Luck”. The movie is a fact-based drama, which was George Clooney´s second feature film as a director.  The plot of the movie is about Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), who is one of the best-known newsmen on television. At the beginning of the movie he gives a speech about the important task of the television, which should inspire instead of distract and isolate people. Murrow is the moderator of the CBS television show “See It Now” and the producer of the show is his most important friend Fred Friendly (George Clooney).

In 1953, Murrow and Friendly investigate a case on the Air Force pilot Milo Radulovich, who was dismissed because he was regarded as a security risk. He was accused of being a communist, because his father had subscribed to a Serbian newspaper and his sister had been seen at a demonstration for socialist civil rights. The critical report by Murrow on the unfair dismissal of Milo Radulovich makes waves. In addition, he reports on the case of an African-American employees, who was moved from the cafeteria in the encipher room at the Pentagon. And then she was accused of being a communist spy. Murrow reports critically on the Senator Joseph McCarthy and plays original recordings to demonstrate the dubious methods of the Communist hunter. With the public debate, US President Eisenhower distances himself from the Senator.

The Cultural Historical Background

“Our history will be what we make it!”

To understand the movie better, it is important to find out some information about the movie´s historical plot. The background of the political drama “Good Night and Good Luck” is the anti-Communist witch-hunt, which was operated by the Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. In the late 1940s and early 1950s a lot of events produced a sense of a national crisis in the United States. For example, the first test of a Soviet atom bomb, the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War encouraged strong anti-Communist awareness in the United States. Especially at this time Home Secretary tend to use the fear of terrorism to restrict human and civil rights.

Those who did not support Senator McCarthy’s tactics, later to be known as McCarthyism, were denounced by McCarthy as communists. McCarthy´s name is synonymous with the period of witch-hunting hysteria, which started after the Second World War and peaked in 1954. Murrow stood up to McCarthy and rebelled against him when most sat on their hands. He imagines that good journalism should defense the existence of press freedom and freedom of speech.

Significance of the Movie

The movie “Good Night and Good Luck” is valuable for journalism and communications students to watch, because the movie enables them to recognize that the television has not only the duty to entertain people, but especially to teach critical. The movie also shows the power of the media that you should be aware of in your job. In addition, it is valuable to create a feeling of responsibility to your country and family in a time of political crisis.

Edward R. Murrow´s Impact

“We don´t make the news, we report the news.”

Did Murrow set out to form the next seventy years of broadcasting with his actions? Or did he just try to do the best job he could? I think Murrow had and still has an impact on the news industry. His well-known reporting on McCarthy gave birth to a form of reporting, which is still practiced on the air. Regarding this kind of reporting you use the sound and video to really tell a story, rather than just as unreferenced background. His reports are famous for using film and other records to give viewers an exact picture of the Senator. This investigative reporting had a tremendous impact in the nation at that time. With his monologue at the beginning and at the end of the movie he showed each own of us the stupidity of much of what we do and watch. His message is that through the television we

“escape and isolate from the realities of the world in which we live”.

In addition, Murrow mentions the lack of serious news content and attacks the entertainment-focused approach. It is still relevant today, because our culture gets more and more celebrity-obsessed. As future journalists we should take Murrow as a role model and continue with investigative reports and to set an agenda to move the needle toward public good.

Surviving Solo as a Backpack Journalist

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Your task as a backpack journalist is to produce a video story from A to Z all by yourself. Backpack Journalism requires the journalist to take on several roles: reporter, editor and producer of stories, cameraman, and audio engineer. Oftentimes you have to work in distant locations that are inaccessible to ordinary reporters and their camera crews.

The Backpack Journalist as a “One-man-band”

The backpack journalists work as a “one-man-band”, because they have to do the work of an entire crew. Many reporters like to work alone and have more creative control over their stories. In these days, the technological advances allow more and more journalists to become a “backpacker”, because you can do more with less. They can use equipment like: a digital camera, satellite phones, a laptop, and a smartphone.

It is a great advantage for news stations to have backpack journalists who can do everything on their own, because now they are able to triple the amount of stories that can be covered.

How to succeed in the field alone?

 “When it gets on the air, you will never know the difference.”

First of all, it is very important to learn how to handle the technical details to be capable to capture moments solo and create an urgent story. As a backpack journalist you cannot just take your camera, get out of the door and expect to be accepted as a professional journalist. The reporters have to know exactly where to plug in the microphone, otherwise they risk that their interview subject choose not to do the story. This means it is important for them to practice how to set up their camera gear. In addition, backpack journalists have to build their interviewing skills all the time, because strong interviewing skills let their interviewed person build trust in them.

Another thing how backpack journalist can tell better stories, is to make the station web site to their domain. This means they should spend a personal investment of an hour-and-a-half to put a text version, with a video clip and a slideshow online. It is favorable to have web skills and to be able to be a journalist on different platforms. With putting their stories online they give the people the power to share their stories with the world.

In addition, it is very important that backpack journalists have a plan and a budget to show their news director, if they want to hit the road for getting a new story. They should try to be specific and sell their stories. The travel aspect in this job is not a paid vacation on the company, but a great chance to do real storytelling on their terms.