Columbians Ahead of Their Time
Fred Friendly
Fred Friendly "Our job is not to make up anybodyís mind, but to open minds, and to make the agony of decision-making so intense you can escape only by thinking."

Fred W. Friendly (1915–98)
Faculty 1966-79, Emeritus 1980-92
LLD (hon.) 1986

In a 60-year career, Fred Friendly was an influential force for quality and integrity in broadcast journalism. As the producer for CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow, Friendly helped enliven and popularize television news documentary in the decade after World War II, when television news was still in his infancy. Two of their programs, See It Now (1951-58) and CBS Reports (1959-64), examined issues of the day such as McCarthyism, the plight of migrant workers, and tobaccoís link to lung cancer. Friendlyís success and stature propelled him to the presidency of CBS News in 1964. By then, his outspoken defense of the news divisionís independence from CBSís corporate imperatives led to clashes with network management. The tension culminated with his dramatic resignation in 1966, after the network chose to air I Love Lucy reruns rather than live U.S. Senate hearings on the war in Vietnam. Friendly then became an advisor to the Ford Foundation and, in that capacity, helped to establish the Public Broadcasting Service. A passionate defender of the First Amendment who carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket, Friendly wrote books on the subject, such as Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control (1967), The Good Guys, the Bad Guys, and the First Amendment (1977), and The Constitution: That Delicate Balance (1984). The year he left CBS, he also came back to Morningside Heights, the neighborhood where he had spent his first 10 years, as the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Columbiaís Graduate School of Journalism.

Friendlyís outsized personality cast a large shadow on the campus as he both inspired and intimidated his students. In 1973, stimulated by a classroom discussion, he started a series of media and society seminars, private conferences for news organizations about ethical problems in reporting the news. In 1984, these conferences became the Fred Friendly Seminars, programs bringing journalists together with politicians, judges, educators and others to discuss the ethical, legal, and public policy issues of the day. In a format that continues to this day, each seminar presents a hypothetical case history to be debated by panelists guided by a skilled moderator. Hundreds of these seminars have been produced, and nearly one hundred broadcast on the public television service that Friendly helped to establish.


Fred Friendly Seminars


Friendlyís post-CBS home


A history of the Graduate School of Journalismís first century

Write Columbia's History

Columbia's history, as seen by those who have studied, taught, and worked here.

Columbians Ahead of Their Time

Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.

C250 Celebrates | C250 Perspectives | C250 Forum | C250 Events | C250 To Go |
Contact C250 | Privacy Policy | About This Web Site | © Copyright 2004 Columbia University