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Ernie Pyle died simply because he wanted to tell the folks at home about The War

Owen Johnson of the IU School of Journalism on today's 70th anniversary of Pyle's death

(image courtesy of IU School of Journalism)

When you get into the news business, you are told from day one "write the way you talk." You are having a one-on-one conversation with your listener, viewer or reader.  Good advice. Inevitably - at least in broadcast news - a consultant contradicts that by telling you to use certain phrases "to secure the attention of the news consumer."  It's why you see and hear the ridiculous "Breaking News", even when it isn't.  It would have been fun to watch Ernie Pyle tell a consultant where to stuff their "Breaking News." Ernie became the most-read reporter of World War II because he wrote the way most Americans talked, frankly, the way his fellow Hoosiers talked.

How Ernie the IU alumnus became the most popular newspaper columnist of the war is well documented by the IU School of Journalism, where they are holding a ceremony honoring Pyle today.  That's because Pyle was killed by a Japanese sniper on April 18, 1945 while covering the Pacific Theater.  Owen Johnson, associate professor emeritus at IU, says Pyle thought he was going to die when he went to the Pacific after surviving many harrowing experiences while covering the war in Europe.  

Johnson is in Hawaii, where a ceremony commemorating Pyle is also being held today.  And if you haven't seen it, go find The Story of GI Joe, the movie based on Pyle's columns, shot while he was still with us, premiered two months after his death.  You learn two things - that Burgess Meredith has always looked like an old man, and that Ernie Pyle was a hell of a man.

Listen to my interview with Owen Johnson on Ernie Pyle.


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