Tomorrow the stranger-than-fiction life story of journalist Lowell Thomas will be told for the first time. In the new book, “The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism,” author Mitchell Stephens delves into Thomas’s life as a journalist. Although he’s credited by many with inventing “traditional journalism,” few Americans today are familiar with Thomas’s legacy.
As much of an intrepid explorer as a journalist, Thomas traveled the globe reporting on what he saw. He assigned himself to cover World War I, and came back with the exclusive story of “Lawrence of Arabia.” He also ventured into forbidden lands like Tibet and Afghanistan, broadcasting radio travelogues of his experiences. In a special tribute to Thomas after his death in 1981, iconic CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite said that Thomas had “crammed a couple centuries worth of living” into his 89 years.
In 1940, Thomas delivered the first U.S. television newscast. His voice was already known on the air, as he hosted the most listened-to radio newscasts on NBC and CBS from 1930 to 1976. Famous American journalists such as Cronkite and Tom Brokaw acknowledged Thomas’s major influence on the profession and the unique role he played in setting the course for modern media.
Author Mitchell Stephens, who is a journalism professor at New York University, followed Thomas’s physical footsteps as a reporter, trekking through Colorado, Alaska, the Yukon, Europe, Arabia, Sikkim and Tibet. The result of his careful research is a riveting story to beguile aspiring and longtime journalists, adventurers and armchair travelers alike.
Information about Lowell Thomas can also be accessed on the digital kiosks in the Newseum’s News History Gallery.