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100 3 His­ tory, News, and You Are There It’s a damn good pro­ gram. . . . How do you get away with it? Ed­ ward R. Mur­ row, in Abra­ ham Po­ lon­ sky, You Are There Tele­ plays, 27 His­ tory ­ served us well. We had no need to in­ vent con­ flicts to serve our pur­ pose. They were there for the tak­ ing and we hap­ pily and con­ scien­ tiously took them. Wal­ ter Bern­ stein, In­ side Out: A Me­ moir of the Black­ list In 1953, soon after Du Pont first aired Cav­ al­ cade of Amer­ ica on tele­ vi­ sion, an­ other his­ tor­ i­ cal pro­ gram, CBS ­ News’s You Are There, also moved from radio to tele­ vi­ sion. You Are ­ There’s his­ tor­ i­ cal inter­ pre­ ta­ tions pre­ sented 1950s au­ di­ ences with left­ ist po­ lit­ i­ cal ideol­ ogy al­ most ex­ actly op­ po­ site Du ­ Pont’s. On this se­ ries, po­ lit­ i­ cal dis­ si­ dents ex­ tolled “re­ sis­ tance to tyr­ anny,” and the his­ tor­ i­ cal epi­ sodes in­ cluded the “most shame­ ful mo­ ments in ­ American his­ tory” as well as a few tri­ umphs. ­ Themes of rev­ o­ lu­ tion and strug­ gle oc­ curred with much ­ greater fre­ quency than sto­ ries of bold yet re­ spon­ sible en­ tre­ pren­ eurs or tri­ um­ phant west­ ward ex­ pan­ sion. You Are There was also ­ anti-exceptionalist, in­ cor­ po­ rat­ ing­ American his­ tory into a ­ broader world his­ tory that ­ linked ideas and ­ events­ across cul­ tures and time, and its inter­ pre­ ta­ tions an­ tic­ i­ pated fu­ ture ­ trends in the his­ tor­ i­ cal pro­ fes­ sion such as ­ greater so­ cial and cul­ tural em­ pha­ ses, at­ ten­ tion to is­ sues of class and race, and sub­ al­ tern and trans­ na­ tional his­ tory. The se­ ries also­ helped to de­ fine tele­ vi­ sion news in its for­ ma­ tive years. History, News, and You Are There E 101 The de­ fin­ ing char­ ac­ ter­ is­ tic of the se­ ries, how­ ever, was its ­ nearly per­ fect chron­ o­ log­ i­ cal over­ lap with the black­ list in the en­ ter­ tain­ ment in­ dus­ try. The first in­ car­ na­ tion, CBS Is There, de­ buted on radio just ­ months after the “Hol­ ly­ wood Ten” con­ fronted the com­ mit­ tee of Rep­ re­ sen­ ta­ tive James Par­ nell ­ Thomas in No­ vem­ ber 1947. The final tele­ vi­ sion epi­ sode aired in the sum­ mer of 1957, as the black­ list era began its slow fade into his­ tory. The se­ ries had an al­ most sym­ bi­ otic re­ la­ tion­ ship with anti­ com­ mu­ nism, which pro­ vided much of the sub­ text of the os­ ten­ sibly his­ tor­ i­ cal epi­ sodes, both on radio and TV. The anti­ com­ mu­ nist move­ ment also in­ di­ rectly pro­ vided much of the tal­ ent for the show—es­ pe­ cially the writ­ ers, who, black­ listed from Hol­ ly­ wood, found not only work but also a me­ dium ­ through which they could fight back ­ against the ­ forces that would deny them al­ most every­ thing. You Are There fea­ tured key his­ tor­ i­ cal ­ events that “alter and il­ lu­ mi­ nate our time”—the tell­ ing ­ phrase ­ writer Abra­ ham Po­ lon­ sky had ­ penned for the voice of an­ chor Wal­ ter Cronk­ ite. By de­ sign, it pos­ sessed the same sense of im­ me­ diacy as the ­ network’s news­ casts, put­ ting the ­ viewer in the cen­ ter of the ac­ tion. The title of the pro­ gram rec­ og­ nized ­ film’s power to per­ suade the ­ viewer that the cam­ era in­ deed cap­ tured past re­ al­ ity. Iron­ i­ cally, this very con­ fi­ dence fol­ lowed from the same logic that im­ posed the con­ tem­ po­ ra­ ne­ ous black­ list in film, tele­ vi­ sion, and radio. In the wake of the pre­ sumed suc­ cesses of prop­ a­ ganda films dur­ ing the 1930s and ­ through World War II, be­ lief in the po­ ten­ tial power of media to per­ suade au­ di­ ences in­ creased.1 Broad...


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