Edwards, Douglas

Edwards, Douglas
(July 14, 1917–October 13, 1990)
   Best known as a network TV news anchor—indeed, the first—Douglas Edwards reported on the world scene for CBS News for more than four decades. He anchored a daily national television news broadcast continuously for most of that time. Edwards anchored the CBS Afternoon News for six years in the mid-1940s, and from 1948 to 1963 was anchorman on Douglas Edwards with the News, which won a Peabody Award in 1956 for best television news. He also broadcast regularly on the CBS radio network, as anchorman of The World Tonight. In 1947, Edwards became the first major radio newsman to make the transition to television, and in 1948—along with Edward R. Murrow and Quincy Howe—anchored the first gavel-to-gavel television coverage of a political convention. “We did very well, the three of us, on those conventions,” he told the New York Times. “Afterward, CBS asked me to go into television, and I did it with some fear and trepidation, not because I was nervous about being on television-I had done quite a bit of it—but because radio was the power. ” Indeed, Murrow and other colleagues initially berated Edwards for the perceived “step down” from radio to television—a perception that would not last long.
   On the occasion of Edwards’s death in 1990, former colleague Eric Sevareid recalled,“He was one of the very few who set the standards of objectivity and coolheadedness for the anchor position. He never tried to bend the news. When TV came along, with all its emphasis on personalities, he was never one of those who tried to act the news. ” Ironically, the very qualities that Sevareid lauds may have cost Edwards his job as the CBS evening news anchor. In 1962, in response to the rising popularity of NBC anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, CBS replaced Edwards with Walter Cronkite, who was regarded as a more forceful personality. Cronkite eventually led CBS back to the rank of number one for network news. Some of the highlights of Edwards’s remarkable career include an at-the-scene report on the attempted assassination of President Truman in 1947 and an exclusive, eyewitness account, from an airplane, of the sinking of the Italian liner Andrea Doria in 1956. That same year, Douglas Edwards with the News made broadcast history, with the first-ever use of videotape on television. Furthermore, the show had been the first newscast to go coast to coast and the first to use color. The show also introduced the nowubiquitous two-way conversation between a newscaster and a personality in the news. In 1957, the show ranked as the world’s single largest news medium, with an audience of more than 34 million viewers weekly.
   In 1951, as STANLEY KUBRICK was making his first motion picture, the documentary short “DAY OF THE FIGHT,” Douglas Edwards had been a constant presence on CBS News for almost 10 years on the radio and for three years on television. Although Kubrick had initially considered hiring Montgomery Clift-whom he had photographed for LOOK—to do the film’s narration, he eventually opted for Edwards, whose cool, “objective” tone fit the film perfectly. Thanks to his ubiquity in presenting the news to a nation, Edwards lends not only a reportorial quality to the picture, but also the kind of “voice-of-God” authority that had been de rigueur in the newsreel tradition out of which Day of the Fight partly emerges. Accidentally or not, the subtlety of Edwards’s delivery also prefigures the kind of distanced performances that Kubrick would elicit from actors throughout his career, almost always to startling effect. For a brief moment in Day of the Fight, just as the bout is to begin, Edwards heightens his narration just slightly, just enough to increase the suspense of the dramatic moment between the waiting and the fight—the moment when boxer Walter Cartier transforms into “another man. ”Without the overall understated quality of Edwards’s performance, this elegant effect would have been lost; indeed, a toned-down reading seems essential to the piece, in order to balance the poetic nature of Kubrick’s written narration and to avoid a melodramatic effect. Edwards began his career in broadcasting very early. At age 15, he first became a radio reporter in Troy, Alabama. After high school, he studied at the University of Alabama, Emory University, and the University of Georgia. He then became a reporter at WAGF in Dothan, Alabama, and an assistant news editor for the Atlanta Journal and for the paper’s sister radio station,WSB. In 1938 he moved to WXYZ in Detroit, where he worked alongside his future CBS colleague Mike Wallace. Edwards joined the CBS radio news staff in December 1942. During World War II he was heard on such news series as Report to the Nation and The World Today, and he joined Edward R. Murrow’s legendary London staff in the final months of the war. After serving as chief of CBS News’s Paris bureau, he was sent in 1945 on an 8,000-mile roving assignment throughout Europe and the Middle East. In 1946, he reported on postwar German elections and helped prepare the CBS News coverage of the Nuremberg trials. At the time of his retirement from CBS in April 1988, Edwards was anchoring the midmorning edition of Newsbreak and the award-winning Sunday morning series, For Our Times, as well as the radio series The World Tonight, which he had anchored since 1966. Charles Kuralt, who got his start writing for The World Tonight, recalled “Doug Edwards was an old-fashioned journalist of the best kind—always diligent and always fair. He helped establish the credibility of news on the air. ”
   ■ “Biographies: Douglas Edwards,” CBS Television Network press information, 1974–75;
   ■ “Douglas Edwards,” CBS Biographical Service, February 3, 1943;
   ■ “Douglas Edwards” (obit. ), Variety, October 22, 1990, 87;
   ■ “Former CBS Executives and Douglas Edwards Honored at NAB Fete Marking 20th Anniversary of Videotape,” press release, CBS Television Network press information, March 22, 1976;
   ■ Hevesi, Dennis, “Douglas Edwards, First TV Anchorman, Dies at 73,” New York Times, October 14, 1990; p. 33;
   ■ Maksian, George, “Doug Edwards closing career at CBS News,” Daily News, February 19, 1988, p. 112;
   ■ “Tireless Talker,” New York World Telegram, December 4, 1954, 2.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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