Saturday, January 4, 2014

John Houseman, the Voice of America

When the Romanian-Parisian-Londoner John Houseman became the Voice of America, using his already formidable theatrical experience to organize America’s broadcast propaganda during World War II, he learned the singular pleasures of journalistic camaraderie.
“Because of the time differences in various parts of the world, our working hours were abnormally long,” Houseman wrote. “Living for 12 to 20 hours a day in this feverish atmosphere, immersed in a constant flood of remote and violent news, it became difficult to separate our own concerns and emotions from the historic events in which we found ourselves involved.
“This drew us together in a strange obsessive association. No matter how late it was or how exhausted we were, we chose to stay together, reluctant to exchange the excitement of our cosmic activity for the cold, dull solitude of our personal lives.
“As the months went by, I found myself avoiding the company of anyone who did not share our daily preoccupations,” he wrote. “Since we were never free of our work, our midnight meetings in neighboring bars took on something of the character of a club or secret society, held together by a common fatigue and the possession of enough restricted information and inside knowledge to make us wary of admitting strangers to our company.”
“I admired them for their skill and knowledge as journalists; they on their part (though they must have had serious doubts about the ability of this smooth, energetic fellow from Show Business to fulfill the assignments with which he had been so casually entrusted) showed such an eagerness to contribute to our collective task that our relationship, after the first inevitable probings, soon became one of close, creative, intimate collaboration.”
Only one major difference remained between them, one of attitude. “For them, the news was an essential and inviolable thing; to me it was the raw material from which it was my job to fashion shows,” Houseman recalled.
Houseman wrote with admiration about the "newspaperman's ability to appraise, with detachment and accuracy, situations created by forces that were not always apparent to the public eye."
Source: “Front and Center” by John Houseman

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