“I detest totalitarian dictatorships in principle and came to loathe this one the more I lived through it and watched its ugly assault on the human spirit. Nevertheless in this book I have tried to be severely objective, letting the facts speak for themselves and noting the sources for each.” — William L. Shirer’s 1960 Forward to his “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”

“He said he had something on his mind. He said he was looking for an experienced foreign correspondent to open a CBS office on the continent. He could not cover all of Europe from London.” Shirer recounting his first meeting with Edward R. Murrow over martinis and dinner in Berlin

Almost DailyBrett would have loved to be the proverbial fly on the wall of the historic Adlon Hotel on Friday, August 20, 1937.

It was the night that broadcasting legend Edward R. Murrow invited William L. Shirer for dinner and martinis.

And to offer Shirer a job as well. The position: serve as CBS Radio’s European broadcast correspondent based in Berlin.

The storm clouds were gathering over the continent of Europe. Murrow (1908-1957) and Shirer (1904-1993) could clearly read the writing on the proverbial wall.

Murrow was smart enough to realize that he could not cover both sides of the coming conflict from his post in London. He needed an experienced correspondent, fluent in at least three languages (i.e., English, French and German), and that person was Shirer. The question was whether Shirer had a voice for broadcast.

The rest is journalistic history. They are forever known as “The Murrow Boys.”

From a 21st Century perspective many will contend in hindsight there would be no way to be objective when it comes to Hitler’s Third Reich and yet that was indeed, Shirer’s professional assignment. The daily travails associated with gathering facts … as much as he was allowed to see and report particularly during World War II … and have his scripts approved by Nazi censors is a repeated subject of his “Berlin Diary.”

Shirer detested Nazism and certainly did not want to unwittingly become a cog in Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine. Germany certainly wanted to present the facade of a “peaceful” Third Reich to “neutral” America. At the same time, he could not do his job if the Nazis threw him out of the country as was exactly the case for more than a few journalists. He eventually departed Germany in December, 1940.

During the Blitz of 1940, Murrow earned eternal fame with his “This is London” broadcasts. At the same time, Shirer was prohibited by his censors from reporting that Britain retaliated with its own bombing campaign against Berlin.

“Good Night And Good Luck”

“Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few.” — Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the heroics of the Royal Air Force (RAF)

Even though Murrow is best remembered for his journalistic critique of the tactics of Red Baiting U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in the movie, “Good Night and Good Luck” (Murrow’s evening sign-off), his reassuring broadcast voice let Americans know that London was withstanding the daily pounding by Herman Göring’s Luftwaffe.

Shirer (1904-1993) along with Murrow covered Germany’s Anschluss of Austria in 1938, Neville Chamberlain’s failed appeasement of Hitler later that year, the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the Blitzkrieg of France the following year.

His vivid account of the ultimate act of German revenge, forcing the French to sign an armistice in the very same “Dining Car in the Forest” at Compiegne, makes for compelling reporting and reading.

Shirer is best remembered for his 1960 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A History of Nazi Germany, the foremost compilation of what happened in just 12-explosive years. The research for his 1,143 page book took about five years and obviously without the aid of Google, which is referenced approximately 6 billion times daily.

Where are today’s Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer?

Both of these journalistic legends had their own deep thoughts about Nazi Germany and later Joseph McCarthy (Almost DailyBrett is not equating the two).

Nonetheless, these two journalistic beacons were devoted to objectivity and covering both sides of the story, in this case the war between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Germany.

Their respective careers did not end there (e.g., Murrow against McCarthy; Shirer penning “The Rise and Fall,”), but their commitment to gathering the facts, following the story to its conclusion and overcoming incredible obstacles (e.g., bombs falling from the sky) all contribute to their respective legends.

Will our Millennials produce another wave of professional, open-minded journalists in the model of Murrow and Shirer?

We can look back into the history books for encouragement for a brighter future of journalism.