What is the central historical issue tackled in this film?
Good Night, and Good Luck seeks to tackle the issue of Senator McCarthy's HUAC trials, and the responsibility of the media to fight back on behalf of American citizens to stop corruption on the part of Joseph McCarthy. While McCarthy was already falling in public favor at this time, Edward R. Murrow's on-air goals helped to catalyze his downfall.
Who, historically, was Edward Murrow?
Edward Murrow was a broadcast journalist who came to be well known for his journalism covering World War II. He had a group of foreign correspondents who became known as "Murrow's Boys" and the coverage attracted millions of viewers. He is considered one of the greatest news journalists of all time, and was prominent in the fight against HUAC and Senator Joseph McCarthy during 1954. His willingness to stand up to McCarthy and the US Government led to a public backlash against McCarthy and his hearing, which would subsequently help to end the trials.
Why was George Clooney so interested in making this film?
Clooney majored in journalism in college and his father was a television anchorman who worked from Buffalo, New York and Los Angeles. It was a subject matter that hit very close to home for Clooney, a staunch liberal, who believed it was time to bring up how government can use fear in order to stop debate. Clooney was so passionate about making this film that he even mortgaged his own home to get insured for the production.
How does Murrow compare two different ideas of how television should work?
In his speech at the dinner in his honor, Murrow speaks with conviction about the fact that television is used more often to delude and distract than it is to educate. He alleges that as long as television networks are controlled by corporate interests, they will not take risks journalistically. But, he argues, they should take these risks since they have a responsibility to educate citizens and create a more informed society. He pits entertainment against news and information, saying, "This instrument can teach. It can illuminate and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it towards those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box."
How does Joe and Shirley's story mirror the overall plot of the film?
The story of the Wershba's secret marriage does not directly relate to the plot of the film, but in some ways, it mirrors the general political and social atmosphere in which the film takes place. The era of McCarthyism is depicted as one marked by a lot of fear, a time of kept secrets and sudden exposure. Joe and Shirley are not Communists, but they are married in spite of their network having a policy forbidding employees to get married. Thus, the secrecy of their marriage mirrors the way that everyone feels they have to be secretive at this time to avoid being exposed as politically disloyal communist sympathizers of any kind.