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Table of Contents
Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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Series I: Correspondence, 1960-1992
Series II: Writing, 1940-1996
Series VI : General, 1934-2004
Series VII: Photographs, 1917-1990
At a Glance
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.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
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.
All original copies of audio / moving image media are closed until reformatting in 2020.
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.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Fred Friendly papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
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
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed Alexandra Bernet and Carolyn Smith.
Finding Aid written by Carolyn Smith 2007.
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
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.