Cover Design by Danielle K. Kilgo
"Contested Ground shows the choices earlier news people made when faced with difficulties like we confront today. We can also see what happened. This must-read book helps us plot a more informed path into the future."
-Bob Dotson, New York Times Best Selling Author and former “American Story” correspondent on the NBC Today Show
“The Tunnel was a stunning example of how television as a news medium could transport the viewer right into the experience – visually, emotionally, and intellectually.”
-Tom Brokaw, NBC News
"In Contested Ground, Mike Conway's analysis of a controversial Cold War-era television program adds significantly to our understanding of TV news history while illuminating long-standing debates about the proper roles of journalism, broadcasting, and documentary."
-Matt Ehrlich, author of Radio Utopia: Postwar Audio Documentary in the Public Interest.
A 1962 documentary on a Berlin Wall tunnel escape brought condemnation from both sides of
the Iron Curtain. The strong reaction was not
limited just to the topic, but for the medium itself.
The Tunnel was produced for American network television.
The Tunnel controversy and the rise of television news reveal a critical juncture in American journalism and media history as the Cold War entered one of its most dangerous periods. The surprisingly fast ascendance of television news as the country’s top choice for information signaled the public’s acceptance but threatened the self-defined leadership role of print journalism as well as the implicit cooperation among government officials and reporters on Cold War issues.
NBC’s Reuven Frank is at the center of Contested Ground: "The Tunnel" and the Struggle over Television News in Cold War America, as producer of The Tunnel and creator of the most popular journalism source of the period, NBC’s nightly newscast, The Huntley-Brinkley Report. The production and reception of the documentary, and all of television news, bring into focus a major upheaval in American news communication and the boundary work involved as government leaders, journalism competitors, and other groups fought over the shifting media landscape. (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019)
Reuven Frank, NBC News. (Tufts University Digital Collections & Archives, Medford, MA)
NBC correspondent Piers Anderton (left) and NBC cameraman Peter Dehmel (right) talk with project organizer Domenico Sesta in the tunnel. (Bettmann Archives/Getty Images).