“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.

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About Anja Goller

I´m from Stuttgart, Germany. I´m attending Lindenwood University, St. Charles, Missouri for one semester, majoring in Mass Communication. I already studied four semester at the University of Hohenheim.

One response »

  1. Hi Anja! So you’re a blogger too! Nice work!
    I see you’re really keen on journalism now…
    By the way, I totally agree with your point about media and their responsability (and yes, even in Italy, where politics and television are so unluckly close).
    Keep on and good luck for your carreer!

    SImone

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