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National Press Club Takes Possession of ‘Holy Grail of Broadcast Journalism’

October 22, 2020 by Dan McCue
National Press Club President Michael Freedman calls renowned CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow's BBC microphone the 'Holy Grail' of broadcast journalism.

WASHINGTON – The BCC microphone used by CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow during his historic broadcast from war-torn London during World War II is taking up temporary residence at the National Press Club this fall.

Casey Murrow, the legendary journalist’s son, agreed to the loan while donating several of his father’s personal possessions to the club.

Among the items slated to go on permanent display at the club are Murrow’s briefcase, hunting vest, poker chips, assorted items related to the journalist’s post-war television programs and archival photos and art that hung in Ed Murrow’s office and home.

All will be displayed in the Murrow Room and elsewhere in the club over the coming months.

But it is the microphone, which is expected to be on display at the Press Club until January, that National Press Club President Michael Freedman believes will serve as an inspiration for scores of young journalists in the city.

“Modern broadcast journalism was literally invented on that microphone,” said Freedman, during an interview with the club’s Gil Klein.

“It is indeed the Holy Grail of the profession,” he said.

The BBC cut the wires and presented the microphone to Murrow in March 1946.

A small plaque on it reads: “This microphone, taken from studio B4 of Broadcasting House, London, is presented to Edward R. Murrow who used it there with such distinction for so many broadcasts to CBS New York during the war years 1939-1945.” The inscription is dated March 8, 1946.

Murrow himself said during a 1955 interview that the microphone was “the only trophy I ever kept.”

In a piece published on the Press Club’s website on Thursday, Klein tells the story of how the donation and loan arrived at the club.

The club awarded Casey Murrow a lifetime membership in January, and Murrow wanted to respond with something in return. After he decided on the donation, he and Friedman had to work out the logistics of the hand off.

Because Murrow lives in Vermont, he and Friedman decided they should rendezvous at a rest stop on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway.

It was there, amid weary, unsuspecting travelers, that Murrow handed the artifacts off to the club president.

The microphone will return to active duty on Wednesday, Nov. 18, when Freedman hosts the club’s annual Fourth Estate Awards ceremony, this year honoring CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, the first woman to head a major network news division.

“As our nation confronts unprecedented converging challenges, all reminders of Ed Murrow’s life, work, and legacy serve to strengthen our resolve as journalists to have the courage of our convictions,” Freedman told Klein. “We are deeply grateful to Casey Murrow for his donations to the club.”

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