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Friendlyvision: Fred Friendly and the Rise and Fall of Television Journalism

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Fred Friendly (1915-1998) was the single most important personality in news and public affairs programming during the first four decades of American television. Portrayed by George Clooney in the film Good Night and Good Luck, Friendly, together with Edward R. Murrow, invented the television documentary format and subsequently oversaw the birth of public television. Juggling the roles of producer, policy maker, and teacher, Friendly had an unprecedented impact on the development of CBS in its heyday, wielded extensive influence at the Ford Foundation under the presidency of McGeorge Bundy, and trained a generation of journalists at Columbia University during a tumultuous period of student revolt.

    Ralph Engelman's biography is the first comprehensive account of Friendly's life and work. Known as a "brilliant monster," Friendly stood at the center of television's unique response to McCarthyism, Watergate, and the Vietnam War, and the pitched battles he fought continue to resonate in the troubled world of television news. Engelman's fascinating psychological portrait explores the sources of Friendly's legendary rage and his extraordinary achievement. Drawing on private papers and interviews with colleagues, family members, and friends, Friendlyvision is the definitive story of broadcast journalism's infamous "wild man," providing a crucial perspective on the past and future character of American journalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51020-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Morley Safer

    In my fifty - six years as a working reporter, I have been lucky enough to work for two men who had the most profound and positive influence on broadcast journalism: Fred Friendly and Don Hewitt, who were both at CBS and often at loggerheads. Don, the creator of 60 Minutes, now in his eighties and in semi-nonretirement, maintains a youthful passion for editing words and pictures together—and letting them tell powerful stories. It is a quality best described by Red Smith in a 1980 essay in which he noted that Pete Rose had “a lascivious love for the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Prologue: Salesman
    (pp. 1-3)

    “He was a salesman,” Robert Trout suddenly interjected as he reminisced about Fred Friendly. Trout, the veteran CBS journalist who had introduced FDR’s fireside chats, was ninety when I interviewed him; Trout had met Friendly when Friendly broke into network broadcasting in the 1940s. Trout, still elegant and mellifluous, was speaking in 1999 in the midtown Manhattan pied-à-terre he had maintained since retiring to Spain. “Above all,” Trout emphasized, “Fred Friendly was a salesman.”¹

    As an education officer during World War II, Friendly sold the war effort to troops in the China-Burma-India theater. Then, for forty years he sold a...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 4-9)

    Any assessment of the first four de cades of television journalism—and its subsequent development to our own day—must reckon with the complex figure of Fred Friendly. Friendly remains the single most important person in the development of news and public affairs programming during the first four decades of American television, from the medium’s inception after World War II until well into the 1980s. His influence endures in countless ways. And the pitched battles he fought continue to resonate in the troubled world of contemporary broadcast journalism.

    He wielded extraordinary influence on the development of broadcast journalism through his...

  7. 1 Ferd
    (pp. 10-29)

    Fred W. Friendly came from a line of German Jews who were salesmen and merchants. His formative years offered hints—significant hints in retrospect but still only hints—of the man he would become. And until his early twenties he was not yet even named Fred Friendly but Ferdinand F. Wachenheimer.

    His father, Samuel Wachenheimer, was the son of a locksmith who had raised his family in the East Sixties in Manhattan when the neighborhood was home to many families of German origin. Samuel was the traveling salesman for Wachenheimer Brothers, a jewelry company he owned with his two brothers....

  8. 2 “My Rhodes Scholarship”
    (pp. 30-47)

    In September 1941, Fred Friendly was inducted into the army. He went to Fort Devens in Massachusetts for basic training and was assigned to KP. He always remembered the unpleasant task of wearing overalls and dishing out liver and onions and how his body afterward reeked of the food. He found this work intolerable and lobbied actively to be reassigned to a position related to his experience in radio.¹ He succeeded: following basic training, Friendly was assigned to the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where he arrived in December 1941, the month Pearl Harbor was attacked and the...

  9. 3 “Willing to Be Lucky”
    (pp. 48-71)

    At the end of World War II, Fred Friendly returned to the warm embrace of Providence, where his war time record was well known through word-of-mouth and periodic reports in the local press. “When Fred got out of the army,” Dorothy Friendly recalled, “he was feted in Providence.” His letter about Mauthausen had circulated widely in the city’s Jewish community. Now Rabbi William Braude invited Friendly to speak at Congregation Beth-El. On January 21, 1946, Friendly gave a talk, “An Intimate Report from Japan,” at a luncheon sponsored by the Town Criers of Rhode Island. Mowry Lowe, Friendly’s prewar radio...

  10. 4 See It Now
    (pp. 72-90)

    Fred Friendly’s hiring by CBS in 1950 marked a watershed in the thirty-five-year-old’s life. He was no longer just a talented and ambitious freelance producer from Providence with a successful record, radio quiz, and radio documentary program on his résumé. While the ties to Providence would remain strong, he had now truly made it in New York. Moreover, the older generation in Providence was dying off. A year earlier, Joe Pincus, a substitute father figure during Friendly’s childhood in Providence, had died. Dorothy recalled the impact of the news of Joe’s death: “It was the only time I remember [Fred]...

  11. 5 Friendly and Murrow
    (pp. 91-109)

    Friendly’s working relationship with Mili Lerner, a tough and talented young film editor, was illustrative of how he forged the See It Now team behind Edward R. Murrow. Lerner grew up in the Bronx, a member of a working-class family of Jewish immigrants that had been on relief during the Depression. Before finding her vocation as a film editor, she had worked at various factory jobs, including at a cannery in Monterey, California, where she helped organize a union. Influenced by her brother’s work in theater and film in Los Angeles, she developed a passion for film editing and became...

  12. 6 Encounter with McCarthyism
    (pp. 110-129)

    The confrontation between Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy is a celebrated episode in broadcasting history. It received Hollywood treatment in 2005 with the feature film Good Night and Good Luck, in which George Clooney played Friendly as a loyal if nondescript aide, someone who was not a major player in the unfolding drama. It is worth revisiting the confrontation in order to weigh Friendly’s true role in See It Now’s encounter with McCarthyism and in the development of documentary techniques that shaped its outcome.

    As early as 1951, Murrow and Friendly expressed interest in doing programs on the...

  13. 7 Aftermath
    (pp. 130-138)

    Murrow and Friendly had reason to fear the consequences of the programs on Joseph McCarthy. The political smear campaigns and broadcast blacklist were far from dead after the McCarthy and Annie Lee Moss broadcasts in March 1954. That June, the CBS radio reporter Don Hollenbeck, a target of unrelenting attacks by the Hearst television critic Jack O’Brian, committed suicide. “His death weighs on all our consciences,” Friendly wrote.¹ He and Murrow felt in retrospect that they might have done more to shield and support Hollenbeck. In the aftermath of the suicide, with Bill Paley’s support, they canceled See It Now’s...

  14. 8 CBS Reports
    (pp. 139-156)

    Fred Friendly’s future career path at CBS was unclear after See It Now was canceled at the end of its seventh season. Murrow continued to do his nightly radio broadcast and Person to Person, programs that did not fall under the umbrella of the Murrow–Friendly partnership. Small World, hosted by Murrow and produced by Friendly, was a stopgap. The half-hour program consisted of conversations with major figures in politics and the arts—often in unorthodox combinations—from multiple locations in the world. The initiative reflected Friendly’s desire to push the limits of communication technology in innovative ways before the...

  15. 9 Camelot
    (pp. 157-173)

    Dorothy Friendly recalled Fred’s anxiety when he first became executive director of CBS Reports. He felt insecure without Murrow, who in the course of their collaboration had vetted Friendly’s ideas, reviewed the progress of their work, made major decisions, and assumed final responsibility for the outcome. By the end of 1961, Howard K. Smith, Murrow’s putative successor, was gone. Friendly suggested to Eric Sevareid that he might be his next Murrow. The proposal reflected Friendly’s insecurity as well as his respect for Sevareid, who nonetheless found the suggestion offensive, as he told Ed and Janet Murrow.¹ Yet Friendly soon became...

  16. 10 News President
    (pp. 174-186)

    In March 1964, Fred Friendly became president of CBS News, then “electronic journalism’s hottest spot,” in the words Jack Gould, the New York Times television critic. Friendly’s stewardship of the network’s storied but now troubled news division took place at a tumultuous time in Friendly’s personal life, in CBS’s institutional history, and in the life of a nation increasingly divided over the war in Vietnam.

    The appointment came at a time of family upheaval, shortly after his wife, Dorothy, suffered an emotional crisis. She had been her husband’s full-fledged partner at the outset of his career in broadcasting but now...

  17. 11 At the Top of His Game
    (pp. 187-197)

    Fred Friendly and Bill Leonard set out with zeal to slay the two-headed dragon of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at the 1964 national political conventions. Their quest to revamp the way CBS handled convention coverage precipitated a conflict with Walter Cronkite, anchor of CBS’s convention coverage since 1952 and the network’s premier newsman. Cronkite was surprised that Friendly insisted on meeting him at the San Francisco airport when he arrived a day before the opening of the Republican conclave. Friendly insisted that they go directly to the convention site. Cronkite learned that a young woman hired away from Huntley...

  18. 12 Vietnam
    (pp. 198-213)

    The presidency of CBS News gave Fred Friendly greater access to the highest level of politics in the United States: the Oval Office. That entrée was a function of the growing importance of television in American politics. He continued to serve as CBS’s unofficial liaison to Dwight Eisenhower. He had developed close ties with the Kennedy White House, a function of his relationship with Newton Minow, the televised conversation with Kennedy, and the Telstar broadcast. Now Friendly found himself being courted by Lyndon Johnson. When Friendly began his tenure as news president, he received a congratulatory letter from Pierre Salinger,...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  20. 13 Resignation
    (pp. 214-233)

    Fred Friendly entered Bill Paley’s office at noon on Thursday, February 10, 1966, fearful that the reorganization of CBS might weaken his authority as news president. Friendly began the meeting by expressing pleasure that Paley would remain as chairman beyond his sixty-fifth birthday. As he said it, Friendly later recalled, “it occurred to me that I sounded like all organization men talking to all chairmen of the board. But I meant every word.” He then reminded Paley of his promise that as news president Friendly would always have direct access to him and Frank Stanton. Paley countered that organizations like...

  21. 14 Policy Maker
    (pp. 234-251)

    Following his resignation from CBS, Friendly carefully weighed—indeed, plotted—his next career move. Press speculation included a report that he might be hired by ABC to expand the weakest of the three network news divisions. Friendly, however, told the New York Times that although he had received calls from “high places” (which he did not identify), he was keeping his options open. He added that it was unlikely that he would join another network, because he did not want to compete with the CBS News department he had helped build. During his trip to the West Coast in March,...

  22. 15 Professor
    (pp. 252-270)

    In 1966, Friendly assumed the role of professor at Columbia University as well as policy maker at the Ford Foundation. He had an equally ambitious agenda at Columbia: to build a dynamic broadcast journalism program in a school with a historic emphasis on print. The hiring of a controversial figure lacking a bachelor’s degree represented an unorthodox appointment at an Ivy League institution. The university administration hoped to shake up a stodgy program that it felt had not adjusted sufficiently to the age of electronic journalism. The dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, Edward W. Barrett, told university president...

  23. 16 PBL
    (pp. 271-284)

    When Friendly first joined the faculty of the graduate journalism program at Columbia, he planned a major programming initiative called the University Broadcast Laboratory, a weekly show to be carried live on Sunday nights by National Educational Television (NET). He conceived the program as a joint project of a consortium of two dozen universities; it would have a magazine format that would permit a full range of programming about politics, international affairs, and the arts and sciences. Friendly recruited his former colleague at CBS, Av Westin, to become the project’s executive director in early 1967. The plan sought to capitalize...

  24. 17 PBS
    (pp. 285-298)

    The Public Broadcasting Laboratory had gone on the air just days before Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. PBL represented a strategic intervention on Friendly’s part to give the embryonic public television system a programming model and a strong news and public affairs identity. As its first season came to a close in 1968, Friendly opened another front in his campaign to shape the new system, moving from a major programming initiative to the bureaucratic maneuvering that would shape public broadcasting’s infrastructure. Passage of the Public Broadcasting Act led in March 1968 to the creation of the...

  25. 18 The Press and the Bar
    (pp. 299-309)

    A turning point in Fred Friendly’s professional focus at Columbia University and the Ford Foundation came in 1974. By this time, several major projects had come to fruition. An expanded broadcast journalism track and facility were in place at the journalism school. The Summer Program for Minority Journalists had ended a successful seven-year run on campus; its work would be continued by the Institute for Journalism Education on the West Coast. He continued to enjoy teaching responsibilities that nonetheless had become more routinized. At Ford, he had placed interconnection of noncommercial television on the public agenda with the Ford satellite...

  26. 19 Seminar
    (pp. 310-328)

    After nearly a decade of teaching and making policy, Friendly had returned to his first love: producing. The two conferences hosted by the Boston Globe and the Washington Post in the mid-1970s became prototypes for a nationwide series of traveling seminars under the rubric of the Conference on the Media and the Law. The scope was broadened beyond the courtroom to include media practices in relation to book publishing, business, human rights, privacy rights, city government, medical ethics, and the family. In 1976 and 1977, for example, Denver, Chicago, New York, Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, Tucson, and Nashville hosted seminars, which...

  27. 20 Last Years
    (pp. 329-345)

    Following The Constitution: That Delicate Balance in 1984, for the next six years the production team for the televised Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society continued to address critical issues for the press and government. The two-part Anatomy of a Libel Case aired on PBS later in 1984; the three-part The Military and the News Media, in 1985; and the three-part Campaigning on Cue: The Presidential Election of 1984 in 1986. In the Constitution’s bicentennial year of 1987, Friendly produced a seven-part series, The Presidency and the Constitution. The programs focused on the myriad ways the modern presidency uses...

  28. 21 Friendlyvision
    (pp. 346-364)

    “I was an underachiever as a child, and an overachiever professionally,” Fred Friendly observed in an interview when he was seventy-five.¹ He was gangly and awkward as a youth, stuttered, and did poorly in school as a result of undiagnosed dyslexia. His mother turned for help to the upper-middle-class Jewish community of Providence, the center of which was Temple Beth El, which embraced her son and gave him a sense of support and belonging. When he became a young man, she feared that he would be unable to support himself. “Who’d ever have thought,” Dan Rather said at Friendly’s memorial...

  29. Notes
    (pp. 365-406)
  30. Index
    (pp. 407-424)