There's been a lot of buzz recently about Keith Olbermann's work, evoking the spirit of Edward R. Murrow, all of which may be true. I only very rarely watch TV (don't own one myself) but I've seen enough of Olbermann to appreciate the resemblance. And it's a welcome resemblance - the spirit of Ed Murrow in TV journalism is a rare thing indeed today.
Last night I had an opportunity to watch Murrow's groundbreaking documentary, "Harvest of Shame," again. First aired on Thanksgiving Day, 1960, in prime time, just as Americans were recuperating from their holiday dinners, "Harvest" brilliantly and graphically exposed the brutal working conditions imposed on US migrant farm workers of the day. It's a monument to the investigative journalist's craft and a goad to the conscience of a nation, produced with equipment by today's standards primitive and featuring unblinking interviews and photography reminiscent of Dorothea Lange's depression-era work.
And if you have a chance to watch it yourself, ask yourself what's changed in the last 45 years. I don't know enough about the treatment of migrant workers today to authoritatively answer that question myself. Likely there's been some progress won by labor organizing in the fields - Chávez's lettuce and grape boycotts of the 1970s come to mind. But the exploitive model "Harvest" lays bare - the practices and the attitudes - has grown deep roots and spread, into the garment industry, the hospitality industry and even retailing, as Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," and other investigations, reveal.
We could use a whole lot more Murrow in our world.