From Murrow to Modern Marvels: Teaching the Story of CBS for a New Generation


The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) is one of the most renowned media organizations globally, with a history spanning over a century. Educating students about CBS’s history not only enriches their knowledge of the media landscape but also helps them appreciate the company’s contributions to broadcasting innovation and programming. This article delves into the best strategies for teaching students about CBS’s history, emphasizing the most influential moments and key figures that have shaped the organization.

The Early Days (1927-1940)

Begin by introducing students to the network’s early stages, highlighting its formation in 1927 by Arthur Judson. Emphasize the significance of The Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System in laying the foundation for what would become a major American radio, television, and digital media network. Engage your students with anecdotes about Paley’s impressive business acumen and how his decision to invest in programming revolutionized audience measurement techniques through the CBS-owned C.E. Hooper Company.

The Golden Age of Radio (1940-1950)

Illuminating CBS’s role during the golden age of radio will help students understand its impact on entertainment, news, and politics in this era. Discuss notable personalities within CBS’s radio division like Edward R. Murrow and his team of journalists, who bravely reported from war zones during World War II. Also mention Orson Welles’ iconic ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast, demonstrating how radio held immense power over public opinion.

Transition to Television (1951-1965)

Explain how technological advancements influenced CBS’s transition from radio to television in this period. William S. Paley was instrumental in ushering the network into the television age; he recognized its potential as an advertising medium and promoted established radio shows such as ‘The Jack Benny Program.’ Introduce your students to timeless classics like ‘I Love Lucy,’ showcasing this era’s impact on popular culture.

The Tiffany Network (1965-1995)

During this period, CBS’s high-quality programming earned it the nickname ‘The Tiffany Network.’ Delve into the wide array of successful shows and miniseries that contributed to CBS’s distinguished legacy, such as ‘All in the Family,’ ’60 Minutes’, ‘M*A*S*H,’ and ‘Dallas.’ Explore the evolving newsroom with iconic broadcasters like Walter Cronkite, who became known as “the most trusted man in America.”

Modern Era and Digital Expansion (1995-Present)

Lastly, bring students up-to-date with CBS’s transformation in response to the digital age. Discuss its streaming services’ launch, such as CBS All Access (now renamed Paramount+), as well as its partnerships and acquisitions. Address contemporary social issues that influenced CBS’s programming, for example, shows that tackle diversity and inclusivity.


By implementing these strategies and focusing on vital milestones and personalities within CBS’s history, you will create a comprehensive learning experience for your students. This exploration of broadcasting development will not only enrich their understanding of media evolution but also inspire them to appreciate the impact of television on American culture and society.

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