Joseph Wershba, Remembered

Friday, May 20, 2011


Joseph Wershba, a former CBS news reporter and "60 Minutes" producer died last Saturday at the age of 90. In 1948, along with Edward R. Murrow, Wershba helped produce the CBS’s first salvo against McCarthyism. We spoke to Joe and his wife Shirley in 2005 about the film "Good Night, and Good Luck," which was partly based on their life.

Comments [10]

Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR

@Monte Haun:

"Prindeville thinks McCarthy was a Super Spy Hunter and Ann Coulter thinks he was a real Macho Man. Jeez!!"

No, actually, I was citing Nigel West, who wrote one of the books I referenced.

If you're unfamiliar with who Mr. West is:

"Nigel West is an author specialising in security, intelligence, secret service and espionage issues. He is the European Editor of the World Intelligence Review, published in Washington DC, and the editorial director of The St Ermin's Press. In 1989 he was voted 'The Experts' Expert' by the Observer."

May. 23 2011 10:41 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

One angle is not mentioned. Murrow was a down-the-line FDR Democrat. For CBS to permit him to vent his spleen against a politician of the party opposite was a signature step. Murrow had not, after all, turned a hair when his hero FDR had interned 110,000 people for having Japanese ancestry just a decade earlier. The Democrats had run a segregationist for Vice President just two years before the McCarthy broadcast, and again there was no outrage from Murrow. In both cases, the violations of civil liberties supported by Democratic politicians was far more serious than anything McCarthy did - but McCarthy's targets were the elites (the Ivy League, the State Department), while the victims of the other offenses were faceless.

You don't have to be a fan of Joe McCarthy to recognize that the long-term effects of the war between CBS and the old boozer have been a legacy of antipathy and mistrust between the network and one of the two major political parties in this country. CBS in theory would like to be trusted by both sides of the aisle, I suppose. In practice it has almost always selected and framed the news in ways agreeable to the Democratic Party. If there is an 'institutional culture' at news corporations as well as any other, then CBS has forfeited credibility - which harms it even when the reporting is 'right' - by the disproportionate resources it has expended being tough on one party and not the other.

May. 23 2011 07:42 PM
Monte Haun from Bulls Gap, TN

"Posted by: Philip Prindeville May 22, 2011 - 10:41PM
Portland, OR

McCarthy worked Naval Intelligence during WWII, and even afterwards maintained extensive connections in NI and the FBI. It is not unlikely that he was being tipped off by personnel in these two agencies as to who had been named explicitly in Soviet telegrams, in which case "McCarthyism" would have been anything but the misguided flailing about the press likes to portray it as having been."

My, my, my. Prindeville thinks McCarthy was a Super Spy Hunter and Ann Coulter thinks he was a real Macho Man. Jeez!!

Perhaps you can explain his attack on a Black Charwoman and His failure to develop a single prosecution or Charge from the Hearings?

Aren't the Files you cited the same ones that proved that Izzy Stone was a Traitor and Paid Spy for the Soviets?

Further, the Rosenberg Trial and executions were unadulterated FBI Anti-Semitic Sh_t.

Monte Haun

May. 23 2011 12:06 AM
Monte Haun from Bulls Gap, TN


Shortly after the fall of the Iraq Government, Dan reported that residents (of Baghdad?) called the Iraqi Cops because a car with 5 heavily armed Men parked all night on the street. The cops found the Gang had something like 2 or 3 men carried Lebanese Passports, 2 or 3 with Syrian or such. The cops called our Army who chewed out the cops and sent the Men on their way. Security people said the Military.

Nothing in this should detract from what the Wershbas and Cronkite did.

During the Viet Nam Era, I developed a Software Helicopter Detection Simulator which I named in honor of Cronkite, ICHIN, "I Can Hear It Now", which is still in use".

Monte Haun

May. 22 2011 11:37 PM
Monte Haun from Bulls Gap, TN

Another triumph of the Wild One was a discussion of the Finances of Arafat and the PLO. She trotted out a long procession of Male Rita Katz wannabe Jews who spoke of Billions, multi millions, Arafat, foreign Bank Accounts etc, etc.

Finally she produced one Palestinian Financial Officer who said there were a few (small number of) Millions and the accounts were not in Arafat's name anyhow, but the PLO. The wild haired one gasped audibly and couldn't speak for several seconds.

CBS did change for the worst when it went Public, but not just because of Stockholder demands for Profits. Look at the years of attempts to fire Dan Rather. Profits are insignificant to the Right Wing when political power can be gained. Newspapers and Magazines (frequently headquartered in DC) that lose money for years to maintain platforms for their s__t.

I wouldn't compare Rather to Cronkite, but Dan was one of the best investigative reporters in my lifetime. After he was sent to the 60 Minutes Gulag for confronting Nixon, he led the Program through it finest Hours including an expose of an FBI plot to use the biggest Whoremaster in Nevada to screw a Federal Judge, which I suspect earned Dan a beating.

His Assistant, fired during the Bush AWOL coverup, was working on a bizarre plot to create a gang of Bank Robbers / Militia Men involving staged shootouts, FBI furnished Guns, cars, FBI clothing which ended in a series of successful robberies and the Jail suicide of one of the Gang.

Dan ran video of a staged shootout between the Hamilton County, Ohio Cops and the Kehoe Brothers (another FBI created Militia) that ended in the escape of the Brothers, the wounding of a passerby and ultimately in the brutal deaths of a Gun Dealer and his Family.


May. 22 2011 11:36 PM
Monte Haun from Bulls Gap, TN

Wow, an unusually good piece for OTM!

The Wershbas reminded me of the other old married journalistic couple Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee.

Their interviews on NPR were always one long Laff Fest remembering The Good Old Days when publishing a paper was FUN!

Just kidding.

I do have a few issues with the opinions expressed.

You failed to note that nothing has changed, in that Republicans are still attacking the Loyalty and Institutions of Democrats with truly reckless accusations that attack the very foundations of our Democracy. And just as during the McCarthy Era, the Media supplies the credibility that makes the brainwashing of the gullible Public possible.

Because one time in the 20th Century, the Media finally spoke out against a deranged Republican Senator, you expect a Gold Medal and the Keys to the Republic.

We are treated to a steady diet of Economic Bullshit that an intelligent 12-old could have rebutted, which ended in a calamity for the people and a windfall of Cosmic proportion for the People who deserved it least.

War, Assassination, Torture, unimaginable misery for Billions of the poorest of the poor justified by the incremental debasement of the American morality by the Media. Is there anything that can offend you people?

As I write this, am watching 60 Minutes while the Wild Haired one interviews Al Sharpton. She was battering him over the Tawana Brawley affair and I would have loved to tell her what I have tried to tell others for years.

In the context of the great sexual Abuse hysteria at the time, it was routinely said, "Children don't lie about that, they must be believed", which became the truism that filled Prisons with falsely accused Men.

But because the flap involved a Black Man and Members of the most corrupt Police Force in the World, look at what it turned into. A successful Libel suit amidst literally thousands of False accusations that went unpunished.

Monte Haun

May. 22 2011 11:33 PM
Kate O'Neill from washington state

This was an intriguing show, in part because it was artful and subtle. You began by giving the conservative journalist for the Washington Observer "equal time" about the revolving door between gov't and private industry. And the message seemed to be that a revolving door was ok as long as the revolver's motives were consistent with their stated principles.

But then we were treated to the pieces on private enterprises devoted to gathering individual's data from social network services, and the documentary about product placements, and then about Murrow -- daring not just to report but to interpret.

You have reported, but you haven't quite dared to interpret explicitly. I have hope.

May. 22 2011 11:25 PM
Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR


Indeed, we know from the NSA's declassification of the Venona files (now at the National Archives) that certain suspected KGB and GRU agents were in fact just that.

Alger and Donald Hiss
Allan, Julius, and Ethel Rosenberg
Robert Miller

Perhaps the staff of OTM can read the Haynes & Klehr book, "enona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America", or the West book "Venona: The greatest secret of the cold war".

McCarthy worked Naval Intelligence during WWII, and even afterwards maintained extensive connections in NI and the FBI. It is not unlikely that he was being tipped off by personnel in these two agencies as to who had been named explicitly in Soviet telegrams, in which case "McCarthyism" would have been anything but the misguided flailing about the press likes to portray it as having been.

Alas, to reveal his sources would have been to compromise the entire Venona project.

May. 22 2011 10:41 PM
Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR

It never ceases to amaze me how the press can continue its tired narrative long after the facts which contradict that narrative have come to light.

Even the term "McCarthyism" is just plain wrong. McCarthy was a senator, where as the "red scares" largely went on in HUAC (the House un-American Activities Committee).

Yes, that was "House", as in the chamber of the legislation in which McCarthy *did not* serve.

McCarthy also didn't become a senator until the HUAC hearings were well underway.

Other than these simple, objective, and easily verified facts that the press (including the staff of OTM, apparently) continues to get wrong, there's also the even more chaffing issue that the media and entertainment industries actually were heavily infiltrated by Soviet agents (some of whom may or may not have been CPUSA members).

When the KGB declassified their archives on their activities in the USA between 1920-1955, it became clear that the "red scares" weren't entirely baseless.


May. 22 2011 10:30 PM
Margaret Sheehan from The palisades ‘or the rolling Fox River in Illinois.

You played a recording of an actor PLAYING Edward R. Murrow – but not a recording of Edward R. Murrow himself? Were you pressed for time? Was it laziness? Is there a bet on how many times you can mention George Clooney? Movies are not reality, no matter how much your guest can closely compare the two. Wouldn't it have been better to open with a clip of Joseph Wershba himself, then explain that it was a 2005 interview on the occasion of the opening of the movie?

May. 22 2011 03:33 PM

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