Voice Of America: Lowell Thomas And The Rise Of Broadcast News
Airs Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV
Although you may not know his name — if you watch, listen to, or download the news these days, you are benefiting from the pioneering work of Lowell Thomas.
As host of the first national radio newscast carried on both NBC and CBS, as well as the Fox Movietone newsreels shown in every movie theater, Thomas invented what we now call traditional journalism and dominated American journalism in the 1930s and 1940s as no one else has before or since.
Lowell Thomas was also famous as an adventurer and world traveler. It was Thomas who discovered T.E. Lawrence in Arabia during WWI and crafted the legend of “Lawrence of Arabia” into a multi-media stage production that Thomas showed around the world.
In the late 1940s, Thomas led a mule caravan into forbidden Tibet just before the Chinese invaded. Despite breaking his leg in eight places, he returned with the story and film, shot by his son, of the young Dalai Lama, who was just 14 years old at the time.
The production team was able to re-trace a number of Thomas’ epic adventures, filming in the U.S., England, Alaska, and India, including his 1949 overland expedition across Tibet to Lhasa.
With narration by NPR’s Robert Siegel, “Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Rise of Broadcast News” features interviews with Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Bob Edwards, David Folkenflik and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as key historians and biographers.
At a time when mainstream journalists are being branded as ‘enemies of the people’ and ‘fake news’ — “Voice of America : Lowell Thomas And The Rise Of Broadcast News” reminds us that a free press and factual reporting are vital to democracy and a cornerstone of a civil society.
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