How CBS Got Its Start

To Arthur Judson, well-known manager in the field of music, the new field of radio presented a challenge and an opportunity. The results were both explosive and unexpected.

Along about 1920 or 1922, I noticed my son fooling around with some gadgets. He told me with great glee that it was a radio machine. I didn’t believe in it much then. Read more »

Who Wants To Be A Mid-two-figures-aire?

How luck, television, and a saintly lurker on the Internet combined to let the author visit 1953 for half an hour.

And now let’s see what the panel can do with another challenger. Would you sign in please, sir?

A grainy black-and-white kinescope flickers on our television screen. A close-up on a chalkboard. A hand—the right—holds a thick piece of white chalk. It begins to write in a sure, round style that I have never seen before. A voice off-screen reads:

Marshall . . .”

The hand drops down a line and continues to write.

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The Four Days That Made Tv News

What you don’t remember about the day JFK was shot

It was a series of sounds and images that had monumental impact and will always remain in the minds of those who watched: the bloodstained suit, the child saluting the coffin, the funeral procession to the muffled drums, the riderless horse. More than thirty years later American culture is still obsessed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and by its greater meaning. Yet, viewed purely in television terms, the impact of the four-day coverage of the Kennedy killing and funeral looms almost as large.Read more »

He Was There

An Interview With Walter Cronkite

As the editors discovered right at the outset of planning this issue, it is all but impossible to think about the course of the past forty years without also thinking about Walter Cronkite. He helped invent broadcast journalism, brought it to a level of professionalism that has never been surpassed, and for decades on “The CBS Evening News” explained to the nation the events that have since coalesced into history.Read more »

The Great Coronation War

In the infancy of television (but not of American royalty-worship) the networks fought their first all-out battle for supremacy over who would get to show Queen Elizabeth II being crowned

When American television was very young, but American royalty-worship was not, the biggest, loudest, most pointless battle for supremacy among the networks was over which would be first—by mere minutes, if necessary—to show pictures of the coronation of the British queen.Read more »

The Quiz-Show Scandal

Stempel’s winning technique was simplicity itself: He got all the questions in advance.

In October 1956 the twenty-nine-year-old scion of an illustrious American literary family took up a suggestion that countless Americans were then making to their more erudite friends and relations. He could use some extra money; Columbia University paid him meagerly enough to teach English alongside his famous father, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren. So why not try to get on one of those new television quiz shows? If he happened to get lucky, he might win a few thousand dollars.Read more »

Seeing Murrow Now

One Sunday afternoon thirty-six years ago, in Chicago, I sat with my parents in front of the family’s brand-new television set, with its small, round-cornered screen, and watched the first of a new kind of program on CBS. It was called “See It Now,” and while most of what was shown during that first half-hour has faded from my memory, two things remain vivid.Read more »