TV News Pioneer Who Worked on Edward R. Murrow’s ‘Red Scare’ Stories and Was One of the Original Producers of ’60 Minutes’ Dead at 90

May 16, 2011  •  Post A Comment

One of the pioneers of television news, who played a role in ending the “red scare” of the 1950s, has died, CBS News announced.

“Joseph Wershba, a television producer and reporter whose work for Edward R. Murrow on the famous ‘See it Now’ segments about Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Lt. Milo Radulovich helped expose and end the 1950s communist witch hunt known as the ‘Red Scare.’ has died,” the news division said in a press release.

“Wershba, also one of the six original ’60 Minutes’ producers, succumbed to complications from pneumonia Saturday afternoon [May 14] in North Shore Hospital on Long Island, with his wife Shirley at his side. The pioneering newsman was 90 and lived in Floral Park, N.Y., where he resided for two years after leaving Manhasset Hills, N.Y., where he lived for 47 years.”

Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and exec producer of “60 Minutes,” said: "Joe Wershba was a wonderful man who was a pioneer of broadcast journalism, without the notoriety of his more celebrated colleagues Ed Murrow and Don Hewitt. He loved this organization and almost everything he touched became part of the foundation for CBS News, including ’60 Minutes.’”

Wershba was a featured character in the Oscar-nominated movie about the McCarthy hearings “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Said CBS News, in its statement: “Wershba’s career spanned more than 50 years and included a prolific output of print and electronic journalism, none more famous than the “See it Now” television segments that were among the very first examples of the new medium’s power. He was the on-camera reporter and field producer for Murrow on the 1953 ‘The Milo Radulovich Story,’ exposing the U.S. Air Force’s move to discharge a reserve officer because of his family’s indirect association with Communism. Thousands of letters overwhelmingly supporting Radulovich flooded CBS and the program’s sponsor, Alcoa, after the broadcast. Newspaper editorials followed; the media began to pay attention to the innocent victims of a zealous crusade led largely by McCarthy to ferret out communists in America during the Cold War.

“Wershba also worked on the 1954 report on McCarthy that, harnessing the senator’s own words, inflicted a mortal blow to the movement and its grand inquisitor. That story became the centerpiece of the Best Picture-nominated 2005 film “Goodnight, and Good Luck.” Robert Downey Jr., played the role of Wershba in the film about Murrow and his CBS News team’s joust with the “junior senator from Wisconsin,” amid corporate pressure from Murrow’s boss, CBS Chairman William Paley.”

Wershba later did freelance documentary work and then worked for the New York Post, where he received a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation into JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

He returned to CBS News after leaving the Post in 1964, and worked on a series of documentaries under the “CBS Reports” banner along with his work on “60 Minutes” and other projects. He retired from the news division in 1988.

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