Friday, April 27, 2012

Remembering a Broadcasting Legend – Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow
Almost a half century after his death, he is still considered one of the most respected and distinguished radio and television journalists of all time:  A journalist whose listeners and viewers trusted and believed him, A role model for future generations of journalists, A broadcasting legend - Edward R. Murrow.

Egbert Roscoe Murrow
The Murrow Brothers - Dewey, Lacey & Egbert

On April 25, 1908 at Polecat Creek, near Greensboro, North Carolina, Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born to Roscoe C. Murrow and Ethyl Lamb Murrow.  Egbert was the youngest of three sons and raised a Quaker.  In 1914, the family moved to Blanchard, Washington striving for a better life near the lumber industry.

Edward R. Murrow
It was during college at Washington State when Murrow changed his first name to Edward.  He graduated in 1930, majoring in Speech.  After graduation, he moved to New York and worked as the assistant secretary for the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars. 

Janet Murrow
Murrow with son, Casey
During that time he met and fell in love with Janet Huntington Brewster.  On March 12, 1935, they were married.  They had one son, Charles Casey Murrow, in 1945.

Director of Talks & Education
CBS Publicity shot
In 1935 he was hired by CBS as their first Director of Talks and Education.  Two years later, in 1937, CBS sent Murrow to Europe to set up cultural programs.  Realizing that a world-wide storm was brewing, Murrow created a network of radio correspondents that could report on the upcoming rapid changes occurring.

Murrow's Boys During the War
With a keen
Murrow's Boys After the Wat
understanding of what would be needed, Murrow gathered some of the best writers from the wire services and newspapers stationed around the world to work for him. These included William Shirer, Howard K. Smith, Eric Sevareid, Cecil Brown, Mary Marvin Breckinridge, Richard C. Hottelet, Bill Downs, Winston Burdett, Tom Grandin, Larry LeSueur and Charles Collingwood.  These men (and Mary) became the eyes and ears of World War II, sending reports and broadcasting back home to the U.S., reporting about what was happening on the front lines of the war and its effects around the world.  This small group would later become known as “Murrow’s Boys,” friends and associates of Murrow, who also believed in and set the highest standards for reporting.

Covering London
Battle of Britain
Murrow made a name for himself by his coverage leading up to and during the war.  In 1938, he reported the German occupation of Austria from Vienna as it happened.  In 1939, he made the German Blitzkrieg come alive for listeners in America.  In 1940, it was during the 10-month-long Battle of Britain that Murrow developed his calm, yet poignant style of reporting – explaining what was happening in descriptive words and phrases, while all the time immersing the audience even deeper with the actual background sounds.

"This is London..."
"Good night and good luck."
During World War II, Murrow delivered over 5,000 radio broadcasts.  It was during this time that he developed his signature ominous open to each newscast – “This is London.”  And each radio show would close with his trademark wish, “Good night and good luck.”

B-17 Flying Fortress
Writing a Story
During the war Murrow flew 25 bombing missions over Germany, recording what he saw and heard after he returned.  Americans had never been this absorbed in a war before Murrow started taking them with him every night – on to rooftops, down in bunkers, flying missions.

See It Now Title Graphic
Vice President of News Programs
After the war, Murrow returned to the New York and CBS, where he was promoted to Vice President of News Programs and offered the chance to create a radio program, Hear It Now.  In 1951, he made the move to television with See It Now.  This was television’s first news program delivered in a documentary-style format.  Murrow presented it in a narrative format while taking the viewer out in the field, where the news was happening.  Most of the stories dealt with social or political issues of the time.  See It Now was the forerunner of later news programs such as 60 Minutes, 20/20 and 48 Hours.

A McCarthy Hearing
McCarthy on See It Now
In 1954, Murrow and See It Now took on Senator Joseph McCarthy and his communist red scare tactics. By using video clips of McCarthy speaking and appearing across the country, Murrow let McCarthy damn himself with his own words and gestures. This program broke the spell Senator McCarthy had seemingly cast over the nation concerning Communism. The Senate voted 67 to 22 to censure him eight months after the show aired.

Peabody Award
William S. Paley
Murrow won a Peabody award for See It Now, and public sentiment ran 15 to 1 in favor of the McCarthy broadcast.  However, William S. Paley, head of CBS took exception to the hard-hitting program, fearing a loss of revenue.  Payle cancelled See It Now soon after, although special segments of the program were broadcast until 1958.

Television in the 1950's
Murrow in the CBS Control Room
Murrow continued to believe that radio and television could be used, not just to entertain, but also to educate and inform.  The media of the late 1950’s, as he saw it, was allowing Americans to become insulated “from the realities of the world in which we live.” 

Murrow in Chicago
On October 15, 1958, Murrow addressed the attendees of the Radio and Television News Directors Association about his concerns, saying:
“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.”

Murrow and Harvest of Shame
Migrant Workers in 1960
Murrow’s last program at CBS was broadcast the day after Thanksgiving, 1960.  It dealt with the plight of the migrant farm workers in the U.S. and was entitled “Harvest of Shame.”
 In 1961, after several run-ins with CBS Chief Executive, Bill Paley, Murrow resigned from the network where he had spent 26 years.

Director of the U.S. Information Agency
President Kennedy and Murrow
Murrow accepted a position with the Kennedy Administration soon after as the director of the U.S. Information Agency – the forerunner of Voice of America. He held this job for three years, until he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He underwent surgery and had his left lung removed.  But the cancer continued to spread.

Murrow with his trademark cigarette
Murrow died at his farm in Pawling, New York on April 27, 1965 of lung cancer. It was reported that he smoked up to 70 cigarettes a day, about three packs. He was 57 years old.  More than 1,300 people attended his funeral.  His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered on his farm, Glen Arden, near Pawling, New York.

Medal of Freedom
Murrow received numerous awards and accolades as a broadcaster.  He was awarded 9 Emmys and two special George F. Polk Awards for Journalism. He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor a President can bestow on an American citizen, by President Johnson in 1964. Murrow was indicted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988, and his picture appeared on a 29¢ U.S. commemorative postage stamp in January 1994.

Glen Arden Farm
As his college, friend, and a member of the elite group known as Murrow’s Boys, Eric Sevareid said, 
"He was a shooting star; and we will live in his afterglow a very long time." 

~ Joy

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dying Green

Earth Day is Sunday April 22nd, so this seems the perfect time to take a look at ‘going’ green with funerals and burials.

We live ‘green.’  Why not die green?  The term “green” refers to a practice that is not harmful to the environment – something that is natural. For many, a green funeral and/or burial are ethical choices, a simple decision to go back to nature. 

Embalming during the Civil War
1940's Funeral Home Post Card
Natural burials date back thousands of years.  This is how we’ve buried our dead for centuries. But natural burial fell out of favor during the Civil War. That’s when embalming was utilized in order to transport bodies back home to be buried.  By the end of the nineteenth century natural burial had dropped off, and by the mid twentieth century funeral homes were playing a major part in the private ritual of death and burial.

Technician ready to embalm a body
Contrary to popular thought, you do not have to have the deceased embalmed.  Embalming is never required for the first 24 after death. Also, you have a set amount of time to bury a body before embalming may be required according to your state law. According to Funeral Consumers Alliance,  “There is no public health purpose served by embalming.” However, the Federal Trade Commission does allow funeral homes to require embalming for public viewing.

Viewing Room
A traditional funeral and burial includes several elements. Among them, transportation of the deceased, embalming, a viewing, a religious or memorial service, possibly a few words at the grave side, a plot, casket, opening and closing of the grave, a vault and liner, and a grave marker.  When added up, a traditional funeral and burial will cost around $10,000! 

Hand dug grave

Natural Burial Area
A green funeral can be held outside in a natural setting, at a loved one’s home, or at a special place of remembrance. A funeral home is not required.  With a green or natural funeral, the body is not embalmed and no toxins are used to preserve it.

Each year, 22,500 cemeteries across the United States bury approximately:
30 million board feet of  hardwood (caskets)
90,272 tons of steel (caskets)
14,000 tons of steel (vaults)
2,700 tons of copper and bronze (caskets)
1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (vaults)
827,060 US gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde.

Wicker Casket
Cardboard Coffin
A green burial is one that is done with a biodegradable container, which is nontoxic to the environment such as a cardboard or wicker coffin.  Wicker coffins may be woven from willow, seagrass or bamboo and pine.

Shrouds are also an option and are still used in many cultures and religions including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity.  A shroud is a long piece of cloth, usually made of cotton or linen in which the body is wrapped. The shroud is then placed directly into the grave without a casket. 

Red Bud as Grave Marker
Rock Grave Stone
Green cemeteries are just that – natural and green.  Pesticides, herbicides and some fertilizers are not allowed.  They do not allow metal coffins, concrete vaults or headstones.  Instead the body is put in a degradable coffin or shroud and placed in the grave with a flat rock, plant or tree serving as the grave marker. Some green cemeteries are using GPS coordinates to locate graves.

Evergreen Grave Marker
Natural Grave
Natural cemeteries also dig the graves by hand, and the body is laid to rest without equipment.  Landscaping is made up of plants and trees native to the area, with the cemetery resembling a woodland.  England has over 200 green cemeteries while in the U.S., a the idea is just catching on.  But the trend is growing. Many traditional cemeteries are opening sections that are only for green burials. The Green Burial Council has established the United State’s first certifiable standards for funeral providers, cremation facilities and cemeteries regarding green burial.  To locate a natural burial site, visit

Natural Cemetery
Stone Marker
Green funerals and burials are much less expensive than traditional ones.  Burial in a green cemetery can run from $1,000 to $5,000, including the plot, opening and closing of the grave, and a one-time charge for perpetual care. The majority of the cost for green burial goes for maintenance, landscaping and conservation of the property.

Rock Salt Urns
Raku Urns
There are other ways to go green in death.  Cremation is another option.  Remains may be placed in a biodegradable urn and  buried, dropped over water, or scattered. If you decide to urn the remains, you can still go green with an urn crafted from handmade paper, rock salt or bamboo.

Scattering Cremains
Biodegradable Urn
Cremation can run $1,000 to 2,000 before burial, if desired.  Most green cemeteries have a donation charge for scattering remains of $200 to $300.  Burying cremated remains can run from $200 to $1,000.

Eternal Reef Underwater

Water Urn
Water burial is another option for a green burial.  This can entail a full body sea burial where the unembalmed body is wrapped in a shroud before being lowered into the water.  Or you could choose cremation and have the ashes scattered over a body of water, or put in a water urn and dropped into it.  You might rather choose to have your cremains become part of a man-made (literally) reef. offers several options including having the manmade reef added to a living coral reef.

Mountain Home
Family Farm
You can consider being buried on your own plot of land.  Home burial is an option and is allowed in most parts of the United States.  Check your state’s laws on acreage requirements. Home funerals are also allowed but may require the assistance of a home funeral practitioner or a licensed funeral home director.  Again, review the laws for your state.

According to AARP – 21% of people over the age of 50 would prefer an eco –friendly, ‘green’ end of life ritual as opposed to a traditional funeral.  Maybe its time we ‘got back to nature’ and started respecting not only the planet, but ourselves as well.  Green burials follow the natural cycle of life, returning the body back to the earth in the least obtrusive manner. 

Ashes to ashes – dust to dust.”  Indeed - How true!  How green!

~ Joy