Sevareid was one of the earliest of a group of intellectual, analytic,
adventurous, and sometimes even controversial newspapermen, hand-picked
by Edward R. Murrow as CBS radio foreign correspondents. Later Sevareid
and others of this elite band of broadcast journalists, known as
"Murrow's Boys," distinguished themselves in television. Indeed
from l964 until his retirement from CBS in l977, he carried on the
Murrow tradition of news analysis in his position as national correspondent
for The CBS Evening News. There his somber, eloquent commentaries
were either praised as lucid and illuminating, or criticized for
sounding profound without ever reaching a conclusive point.
image as a scholarly commentator on the CBS Evening News
was belied by an early career in which he was something of a swashbuckler.
Sevareid was working at the New York Herald Tribune's Paris
office when his writing caught the eye of Edward R.Murrow, who offered
him a job. Later Sevareid would say of those early years, "We were
like a young band of brothers in those early radio days with Murrow."
Indeed in his final l977 CBS Evening News commentary, Sevareid
referred to Murrow as the man who "invented me."
one of "Murrow's Boys" during World War II, Sevareid "scooped the
world" with his broadcast of the news of the French surrender in
l940, joined Murrow in covering "The Battle of Britain," was lost
briefly after parachuting into the Burmese Jungle when his plane
developed engine trouble while covering the Burmese-China theater;
he reported on Tito's partisans; and he landed with the first wave
of American troops in Southern France, accompanying them all the
way to Germany.
l946 after reporting on the founding of the United Nations, Sevareid
wrote Not So Wild a Dream, which appeared in 11 printings
and became a primary source on the lives of the generation of Americans
who had lived through the Depression and World War II. For the l976
edition of the book he wrote, "It was a lucky stroke of timing to
have been born and lived as an American in this last generation.
It was good fortune to be a journalist in Washington, now the single
news headquarters in the world since ancient Rome. But we are not
Rome; the world is too big too varied."
considering himself a writer first, Sevareid felt uneasy behind
a microphone and even less comfortable with television; nevertheless
he did such early Sunday news ghetto programs as Capitol Cloakroom
and The American Week, and served as host and science reporter
on the CBS series Conquest. As head of the CBS's Washington bureau
from l946-54 Sevareid was an early critic of McCarthyism and in
one of the few even mildly critical comments he ever made about
Murrow, observed that he came to the issue rather late.
as CBS's roving European Correspondent from l959-61, Sevareid contributed
stories to CBS Reports as well as serving as moderator of series
such as Town Meeting of the World, The Great Challenge, Where
We Stand, and Years of Crisis. In addition, he also appeared
in every presidential election coverage from l948 to l976. However,
one of Sevareid's scoops of those years, his l965 exclusive interview
with Adlai Stevenson shortly before his death, for which he won
a New York Newspaper Guild Page One award, was not broadcast over
CBS, but instead appeared in Look magazine.
l964 until his retirement Sevareid appeared on the CBS Evening
News with Walter Cronkite. During that period his Emmy and Peabody
award-winning two-minute commentaries, with their penchant to elucidate
rather than advocate, inspired those who admired him to refer to
him as "The Grey Eminence." On the other hand those who were irked
by his tendency to overemphasize the complexity of every issue nicknamed
him, "Eric Severalsides." Sevareid himself said that as he had grown
older his tendency was toward conservatism in foreign affairs and
liberalism in domestic politics. Despite this, after a trip to South
Vietnam in l966 he commented that prolonging the war was unwise
and a negotiated settlement was advisable. His commentary on the
resignation speech of President Richard M. Nixon ("Few things in
his presidency became him as much as his manner of leaving the presidency")
albeit magnanimous was hardly as perceptive.
keeping alive the Murrow tradition of news commentary at CBS, Sevareid,
in keeping with another Murrow tradition, interviewed noted individuals
such as West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, novelist Leo Rosten,
and many others on the series Conversations with Eric Sevareid.
Indeed in something of a spoof of this tradition he also did a conversation
with King George III (played by Peter Ustinov) entitled The Last
King in America.
his retirement Sevareid continued to be active as a CBS consultant
and in narrating shows such as Between the Wars (Syndicated, l978),
a series on American Diplomacy between l920-41, Enterprise (PBS,l984),a
series on American business, and Eric Sevareid's Chronicle
(Syndicated, l982). His final appearance, before his death in l992,
was on the l991 CBS program Remember Pearl Harbor. Needless
to say, Sevareid's presence at CBS was a link to the Murrow tradition,
long after Murrow himself and many of his "Boys" left the network,
and after that tradition ceased to have significant practical relevance
at CBS News.
SEVAREID. Born in Velva, North Dakota, U.S.A., 26 November 1912.
Educated at the University of Minnesota, B.A. in political science
1935; studied at London School of Economics and Alliance Franšaise
in Paris. Married: 1) Lois Finger, 1935 (divorced, 1962); two sons;
2) BelÚn Marshall, 1963; one daughter; 3) Suzanne St. Pierre. Worked
as teenager as copy boy for the Minneapolis Journal; worked during
college as freelancer for the Minneapolis Star; served on
staff of the Minneapolis Journal, 1936-37; reporter, Paris
edition of the New York Herald Tribune, 1938; recruited to
join CBS radio by Edward R. Murrow, 1939; traveled with French army
and air force for CBS, 1939-40, became first to report France's
capitulation to Germany; assigned to CBS News Bureau in Washington,
D.C., 1941-43; served as war correspondent in China, 1943-44, London,
1945; served as chief Washington, D.C., correspondent for CBS, 1946-59;
worked as European correspondent, 1959-61; moderator, numerous CBS
News programs, 1961-64; served as commentator for The CBS Evening
News, from 1963; national correspondent, CBS News, from 1964;
hosted interview series, Conversations With Eric Sevareid,
from 1977; consultant, CBS News, from 1977; reported on numerous
presidential conventions. Received numerous honorary degrees. Recipient:
Peabody Awards, 1950, 1964, and 1976; three Emmy Awards; two Overseas
Press Club Awards; Harry S. Truman Award, 1981; numerous other awards.
Died 10 July 1992.
Conquest (host and science reporter)
1963-77 Commentator, CBS Evening News
1964-77 National Correspondent, CBS Evening News
1977 Conversations With Eric Sevareid
CBS Reports: Great Britain--Blood, Sweat and Tears Plus
With the Cree. New York: Macmillan, 1935.
So Wild a Dream. New York: Knopf, 1946.
In One Ear. New York: Knopf, 1952.
Small Sounds in the Night. New York: Knopf, 1956.
1960, editor. New York: Basic Books, 1959.
is Eric Sevareid. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.
Thomas, editor. Television News Anchors: An Anthology of Profiles
of the Major Figures and Issues in United States Network Reporting.
Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1993.
Gary Paul. Air Time: The Inside Story of CBS News. New York:
Harper & Row, 1978.
Peter. Bad News at Black Rock: The Sell-out of CBS News. New
York: Arbor, 1987.
David. On and Off the Air: An Informal History of CBS News.
New York: Dutton, 1989.
Raymond A. The American Journey of Eric Sevareid. South Royalton,
Vermont: Steerforth, 1995.
Broadcasting System; Cronkite,
Edward R.; News,