How One Journalist Helped Save Our Constitution

"Good Night and Good Luck" Looks at the Famous Fight Between McCarthy and Murrow

by Adaeze Okoli, age 15

On a recent Friday night at the Simpson Street Free Press student reporters joined Madison journalists Mark Eisen and Chris Murphy to watch the film, “Good Night and Good Luck.”

Directed by veteran actor George Clooney, this film tells the true story of CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow and his fight against Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin.

Senator McCarthy was known throughout the 1950’s for his “black list,” a list of people he accused of being communists, having ties with the communist party. McCarthy and other anti-communist crusaders used fear tactics to fuel hysteria and advocate for their cause. Few at the time had the courage to stand up to McCarthy. Few, that is, except Edward Murrow.

Murrow put his career on the line in order to take on McCarthy. He used his weekly television news program to challenge those who sought to limit the civil liberties outlined in the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Through a series of editorials Murrow tried to inform the American public of McCarthy’s true intentions.

This movie exhibits the way true journalism should be practiced. Although it is easy to censor unwanted content, the authors of the American Constitution intended that journalism act as a fourth branch of government. Its job has always been to monitor and keep in check the ambitions of politicians and our nation’s leaders. Without good journalism it is much more difficult for the public to hold its government accountable.

“Good Night and Good Luck” is a wonderful movie. It depicts true courage. Our Bill of Rights gave Edward R. Murrow the right to stand up for what he believed was right. He did so, but he also paid a very high price.