Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Fred Friendly papers, 1917-2004, bulk 1950-1990

Summary Information


This collection encompasses the life and career of Fred Friendly as an author, educator, and television news producer.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1417
Bib ID 6297812 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Friendly, Fred W.
Title Fred Friendly papers, 1917-2004, bulk 1950-1990
Physical Description 97.4 linear feet (220 document boxes 3 index card boxes 2 record cartons 1 oversized box)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

One folder in box 189 has been restricted until 2051.

Some unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized.



This collection is arranged in 9 series.



This collection encompasses the life and career of Fred Friendly as an author, educator, and television news producer. The collection is comprised of correspondence, printed materials, invitations to events, awards, photographs and audio-visual materials of news programs. Also represented are administrative files and memos from his work at CBS, the Ford Foundation, and Columbia University.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1960-1992

    The bulk of Friendly's correspondence relates to the production of the Media and Society Seminars (MSS), a process which required frequent communication with film crews, editors, and participants. Invitations to potential panelists describe a seminar's theme and goals, while other letters contain proposals for future seminars or reflections on completed ones, discussions on editing film, or expressions of thanks after an especially successful panel. The series also includes conversations between Friendly and Columbia professors, usually concerning course content or guest speakers. Personal correspondence is less common, but appears occasionally in the form of short letters to friends.

    This series consists of three subseries, which represent different filing systems. However, the content of all three series is similar and overlapping, and information related to a particular event, person, or topic may be found in multiple subseries.

  • Series II: Writing, 1940-1996

    Friendly produced dozens of articles and speeches, as well as several books. Although his work covers many topics, he was especially interested in free speech, the history and impact of television, and the role of ethics in government, business, law, and journalism. This series consists primarily of drafts, research notes, and correspondence with editors and colleagues

  • Series III: Media and Society Seminars, 1974-1996

    One of Friendly's many achievements was the creation of Media and Society Seminars (MSS). Conducted by Columbia University, the seminar series brought politicians, doctors, journalists, and other specialists together for moderated round-table discussions on challenging ethical dilemmas. Friendly stressed that the goal was, "not to make up anybody's mind, but to open minds; to make the agony of decision-making so intense that you can only escape it by thinking." From the time of its founding in 1974 until Friendly stepped down as producer in 1992, MSS orchestrated over 600 seminars on diverse topics including medical malpractice, affirmative action, abortion, and business ethics. Many of these were televised on PBS, and several were also offered on VHS tapes, along with workbooks and discussion questions to be used as "telecourse" series in high school and college classrooms. The program was later renamed Fred Friendly Seminars in his honor.

    The series is comprised primarily of seminar transcripts, but also includes proposals and planning notes, research notes, film production information, promotional packets for telecourses, and drafts of "hypotheticals"—the scenarios that provided the focus of each discussion. Items have been arranged by seminar title.

  • Series IV: Conferences and Seminars, 1962-1996

    In addition to overseeing MSS, Friendly was also an active participant at government, business, and professional conferences. In some cases he was asked to replicate the round-table style of MSS at corporate retreats or annual meetings. At other events, he served as a moderator, panelist, or specialist. Files in this subseries contain notes, correspondence, and programs, and are arranged alphabetically by event title or topic. Two folders at the end of the subseries include invitations and programs for additional events.

  • Series V: Television and Radio, 1947-1991

    This series contains a small but varied representation of Friendly's career as an announcer, from his early work as a writer and announcer for WEAN-Providence though his time as president of CBS. Materials include scripts and transcripts of programs with related notes, office correspondence and memos, and research notes.

  • Series VI : General, 1934-2004

  • Series VII: Photographs, 1917-1990

    This series contains photographs of Friendly, as well as images used in the production of his seminars and books. It has been arranged into three subseries based on subject.

  • Series VIII: Media, 1961-1991

    Series VIII holds audio-visual material, including recordings of Media and Society seminars, episodes from several news programs, and television specials featuring Friendly. Formats include VHS tapes, Umatic tapes, 7- and 5-inch audio tapes, audiocassettes, mini cassettes, records, and diskettes. Items have been arranged by format and title.

  • Series IX: Addition to the Papers, 2017

    Gift of Ruth Friendly, August 2017. Accession Number 2017.2018.M024

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

One folder in box 189 has been restricted until 2051.

Some unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Fred Friendly papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Related material: Oral History Collection of Columbia University. The Reminiscences of Fred W. Friendly (1967) [Radio Pioneers project] (1950-1974), p. 50; Ford Foundation, Office of the President. McGeorge Bundy Office Files, 1966-1979


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Ruth Friendly. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1999.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Alexandra Bernet and Carolyn Smith.

Finding Aid written by Carolyn Smith 2007.

AV items in boxes 223-254 are from accession 2012-2013-M070 and are closed until reformatting.

Revision Description

2009-03-05 File created.

2009-04-30 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2020-08-04 Added links to first batch of digitized material. kws

2021-03-15 Added links to batch 2 of digitized AV materials. kws

2021-06-07 Added links to batch 3 of digitized AV materials. kws

2021-08-23 Added links to batch 4 of digitized AV materials. kws

2021-10-02 Ingested additional AMI from 2012-2013-M070. kws

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Periodicals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sound recordings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Video recordings (physical artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Authors, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
CBS Radio Network Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
CBS Records (Firm) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
CBS Television Network Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia College (Columbia University) -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. School of Journalism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Friendly, Fred W. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Journalists -- Interviews Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Journalists -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Media and Society Seminars Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Miller, Arthur R (Arthur Raphael), 1934- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Murrow, Edward R Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radio -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radio journalism -- United States -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radio journalists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Television -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Television programs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States. Federal Communications Commission Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 -- Journalism, Military Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Fred Friendly (1915-1998) was born Ferdinand Friendly Wachenheimer in Manhattan, New York. Son of Samuel Wachenheimer, a jewelry manufacturer, and Therese Friendly Wachenheimer, he lived in New York until the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1926. He graduated from Hope Street High School and then attended Nichols Junior College in Massachusetts, where he graduated with an associate's degree in 1936.

Wachenheimer began his broadcast career as a radio announcer in Providence, where he took his mother's maiden name and was thereafter known as Fred Friendly. He wrote and narrated a program on WEAN called "Footprints in the Sands of Time", a short radio documentary program that profiled historic persons.

Friendly served in the Army during World War II and worked as a correspondent for "CBI Roundup", an Army newspaper for the China-Burma-India Theater. He was present at the liberation of the Malthausen concentration camp in Austria. Following Victory in Europe Day (May 7, 1945) he was granted a three-month leave of absence to travel in Europe. There, he experimented with audiotape techniques while making a documentary about troops. While this documentary was never distributed, it taught him much about audio techniques and the power of original footage. By the time he was discharged in 1945, as a master sergeant, he had been awarded four battle stars, the Legion of Merit, and the Soldier's Medal, which he received after he rescued several persons from a dock fire in India.

Following the war, Friendly returned to New York City. He married Dorothy Greene, a researcher for Life magazine in 1947; they had three children and would later divorce. Friendly then began work on "I Can Hear It Now", the record album that provided an oral history of the years 1933 to 1945. The record used only original recordings, not recreations, and interspersed famous speeches by leaders with more personal touches. He convinced Edward R. Murrow, already a well-known voice, to narrate the album. Released in 1948, the album was more successful than anticipated and marked the beginning of their collaborative work.

In 1949 and 1950 Friendly created two successful radio series for NBC: "Who Said That?", a quiz show featuring panelists and topical news questions, and "The Quick and the Dead", a four-part documentary about the development of the atomic bomb. Friendly then left to join Murrow at CBS, where they worked on Hear It Now, a radio series based on their successful recording. Taking the leap into the new medium of television, they debuted "See It Now", which broke ground as a long-form news program. The program began as a half-hour show in 1951, but later expanded to an hour in 1953. Murrow was the face of the broadcast, while Friendly focused on production.

"See It Now" dealt with a wide variety of news-topics, but throughout 1953 and 1954 Murrow and Friendly created and broadcast several programs that concentrated on Senator Joseph McCarthy and his investigation of communists in America. The first show that raised the McCarthy issue was "The Case of Milo Radulovich, A0589839" broadcast in October 1953. Radulovich was an Air Force reservist who was discharged because of allegations of communism against his family members. Friendly would later state that they were actively looking for stories to better illuminate the methods of Senator McCarthy. With this in mind, they created the program"Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy" broadcast in March 1954. It relied soley on footage of McCarthy in order to let his own words be the focus of the program. CBS did extensive customer surveys after this program ran and the barrage of phone calls and telegrams arrived were mainly in support of the program. As time went on, Friendly and Murrow produced many other provocative programs dealing with issues such as race and the tobacco industry. The show was cancelled in 1958 when both men became committed to other projects.

In 1960, Friendly became the executive producer of the news documentary program"CBS Reports". The show had a large staff and was able to handle long and large-scale investigative reports. Friendly was appointed the president of CBS News in 1964. This was to be a short-lived position, as he resigned in 1966. His decision to show Senator Fulbright's hearings on American involvement in the Vietnam War in the United States Senate was over-ridden, and a re-run of "I Love Lucy" was broadcast instead. He resigned in protest.

After his resignation, Friendly was invited to work at the Ford Foundation as the adviser to the President on Communications. His plan to fund a public television network with the profits from a communications satellite paid for by commercial networks met with opposition, and was not put into place. However, the idea did spur Congress to pass the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967, which created the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). With his previous work still fresh in his mind, Friendly penned "Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control", a memoir about his time at CBS.

In 1968, Friendly married Ruth Mark, a former schoolteacher and widow. Each having three children from previous marriages, they raised their six children together. He began teaching at Columbia University as the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Journalism the same year. Bringing more life experience than degrees to his teaching career, his time in the Journalism School at Columbia University had a lasting impact. He created and instituted the Summer Program in Broadcast and Print Journalism for Members of Minority Groups (later renamed the Michele Clark Fellowship Program for Minority Journalists), which ran from 1968 to 1974. In 1974, he began the Media and Society Seminars, a series of conferences and round-table discussions that brought lawyers, politicians, doctors, and journalists together to talk about ethical issues. These later evolved into "The Fred Friendly Seminars", which are still in production today under the auspices of Ruth Friendly.

In 1976 Friendly published "The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment", which dealt with the history of the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine, a regulation which required networks to provide equal time for opposing opinions on issues presented during a public broadcast. Upon ending his time at the Ford Foundation in 1980, Friendly had more time to devote to his "Media and Society Seminars" and also to his private speaking engagements. In 1981 he published "Minnesota Rag: The Dramatic Story of the Landmark Supreme Court Case that Gave New Meaning to Freedom of the Press", which delved into an influential court case.

Springing from personal and professional interest, Friendly's final book "The Constitution, That Delicate Balance" was published in 1993 as a companion to two "Media and Society Seminar" series"The Constitution, That Delicate Balance" (1984), and "That Delicate Balance II: Our Bill of Rights" (1991). For his many contributions to television, Fred Friendly was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1994. He died in New York in 1998.