August 26, 2016

1952. Murrow Boys at the Republican Convention

The 1952 Republican National Convention
Walter Cronkite in the anchor chair on July 1, 1952 (source)
From The Billboard, July 19, 1952, p. 16:
Roving Walkie-Talkie is Key to Thorough Job

by Gene Plotnick
The Columbia Broadcasting System radio network turned in a solid reportorial job on the Republican National Convention, and the key to its success was undoubtedly the walkie-talkie. CBS' corps of correspondents down on the floor of Convention Hall and in and out of the caucus rooms beamed up the latest developments in the trend of events that no camera could catch. During Monday's (7) fight on the rules, for instance, Dave Schoenbrun sent up word of the compromise embodied in the Brown amendment almost an hour before Rep. Clarence Brown went to the platform to put it before the delegates. At the moment the measure was not only not yet known as the Brown amendment, but its intent and significance were not clear. So the other CBS men on the floor interviewed key personalities on the proposal.

Also CBS brought in a rather early beat on the fact that Maryland's Governor McKeldin was releasing his delegation to vote as it chose.

CBS Radio kicked off its convention coverage Sunday (6) night at 10:05, the night before the convention itself began. Boothman Bob Trout started that show describing the empty arena. With the help of Griffing Bancroft he gave some background, and forecast the situation that would face the delegates the next day. Bill Downs on the stage of the amphitheater, Schoenbrun at Ike headquarters and Ed Morgan in Taft headquarters were piped in. The latter two, aside from describing the scenes they saw before them, also gave the background of Ike and Taft respectively.

An exchange of views between Ed Murrow and Eric Sevareid then took place from the Conrad Hilton Hotel. Murrow noted that the winning nominee could not get it on the first ballot. The pair stumbled over their own conversation in a few spots but generally contributed interesting observations.

The show, which wound up with interviews of Rep. Joseph Martin and John Foster Dulles, effectively set the overall scene of the convention city the day before the convention itself. It also enabled CBS to check through its entire coverage machinery.

Each day's proceedings were wrapped up by CBS Radio in a 30-minute show at 7 p.m. entitled "Convention Digest." The show, which for the most part embodied tapes of the major statements and sounds and noises of the day, was emceed and filled in by Charles Collingwood. In 30 minutes, "Convention Digest" did manage to give listeners a thorough summary of the day's developments so that those listeners who work during the day could have the benefits of virtually complete coverage with nothing or little lost.

Following Collingwood's show, CBS brought in Alistair Cooke for a 15 minute personal view of that day's proceedings. Cooke, U.S. correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, is author of the recently published book, "One Man's America," and his show was referred to as "One Man's Convention." On his show Cooke sounded like the calm voice midst the tumult. He described the zany, maniacal behavior of the crowds around the hotel lobbies and in the streets. And one day he spent several minutes discussing the travail of a newspaperman covering the convention in a television age. He did not concede that the newspaperman, being somewhat more maneuverable than a TV camera, can give his paper copy that its readers could not have already picked up via television. This was striking, since the CBS Radio correspondents, with their walkie-talkies, had already demonstrated that quite clearly.

The CBS pipe of the pooled feed was moderated by Bob Trout, who did a calm, clear and alert job, frequently in his inimitable singsong.

Westinghouse was the sponsor on CBS, and it must be said that for the most part their plugs were kept out of the way of important developments on the convention floor, but they were by no means perfect about this. For instance on Wednesday night, on the 4th floor debate over the seating of the Texas delegation, CBS listeners missed the entire presentation of the minority report from the Credentials Committee, except for the reading of the names of the delegates subscribing to it. They got a pitch from Westinghouse instead—if they stayed with it instead of anxiously switching stations in search of the facts.