In Good Night and Good Luck, how does Murrow establish his credibility with his peers at CBS and the general public?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One distinct way in which Murrow is shown to establish his credibility with his peers at CBS, and the general public exists in his convictions.  Murrow is depicted as uncompromising when it comes to delivering the truth to the general public.  In stark contrast to McCarthy, Murrow is not as interested in viewership.  He is more interested in delivering the truth and upholding a standard of journalism that does not embrace commercialism and a sensationalism at the cost of news.  Murrow speaks to this condition:

We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

Moments like this in the film help to show how important credibility is to Murrow.  The need to break free from a condition that might "distract, delude, amuse, and insulate" is of the utmost importance to Murrow.  He is shown to understand that this commitment represents his credibility.  To stand for it is an issue in which there is no debate.

Murrow is also shown to be cognizant of the consequences of his actions.  Murrow understands that his particular stance in the name of his credibility will cause problems with CBS.  Murrow understands that his defense of the truth at all costs will cause Paley to have to exert pressure on him.  Murrow recognizes this at several points in the drama. One is when Paley invites him to a Knicks game and Murrow responds with "I'm a little busy bringing down the network tonight, Bill."  At another moment, Paley tells Murrow that "I'm with you today Ed, and I'm with you tomorrow."  In these instances, one sees how Murrow establishes credibility with his peers at CBS.  They recognize that Murrow has no ulterior motive.  He has no hidden agenda.  He wishes to deliver the truth to the public and will not relent in the pursuit of what he sees as honorable, loyal and honest.  Murrow embodies the values that inspires others, and it is for this reason that people at CBS recognize that there will be consequences to his stand, but that his credibility arises from a place of sincerity and honor it.

Murrow's credibility is something that resonates with peers and public because it is so pure.  Murrow's characterization is so poignant because television, as a medium, was emerging as about as far from authentic as possible.  Murrow's stance is almost tragic because he represents a valence of credibility that is becoming absent in the condition of television.  McCarthy certainly would represent this and in carving out his own position as antithetical, Murrow's credibility becomes clear to both peers and public:  "It is my desire if not my duty to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening in radio and television, and if what I say is responsible, I alone am responsible for the saying of it. Our history will be what we make of it."  These words echo and become so meaningful because it is clear that Murrow is shown to believe them.  The depiction of Murrow in such a light, a garden in the midst of the desert, is only possible because he stands for and with his credibility.  Through characterization, Murrow's credibility is accepted by peers, his public, and the audience.

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