Happy Birthday

bill moyers

Happy Birthday, Bill Moyers, Journalist and Pundit

June 05, 2009
by Rachel Balik
For nearly 50 years, celebrated television broadcaster, journalist and social pundit Bill Moyers has had his finger on the pulse of American politics, history and pop culture, both working in the government and looking into it. While some may debate his opinions, few can question Moyers' place in America's highest journalistic ranks.

Early Days

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Billy Don Moyers was born June 5, 1934, in Hugo, Okla., but raised in Texas. He credits his ability to be eloquent and genteel to his Texas upbringing. Before he became a journalist, he attended North Texas State College, known today as the University of North Texas, and the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated with his bachelor’s in journalism in 1956. He then attended Scotland’s University of Edinburgh and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a bachelor’s of divinity degree. Moyers served briefly as an ordained Baptist minister, in addition to his press-related pursuits.

Notable Accomplishments

Before Moyers became a journalist, he was Lyndon B. Johnson’s press secretary. Although some still criticize him for serving as Johnson’s spinmeister during the Vietnam War, Moyers went on to be a perceptive and respected journalist in print and then on television. In 2003, Salon asked him to sound off in an interview on everything ranging from LBJ to Iraq.

Some of Moyers’s most revelatory interviews eventually became full-fledged books. One particularly famous example, “The Power of Myth,” was published as a collaboration between Moyers and Joseph Campbell. Derived from a six-part mini-series, Campbell’s book reveals the ways myth influences modern culture and can help explain our contemporary existence.

The Rest of the Story

Soon after Moyers retired from the show “Now,” Kenneth Tomlinson, chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, accused the show and Moyers of having a liberal bias. At the National Conference for Media Reform, Moyers addressed these criticisms and defended his position and approach. He said that investigative journalism could not be properly executed if the interviewer did not have a strong opinion and argued, “objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.”

Moyers maintains a prominent television presence with his PBS show “Bill Moyers Journal.” A new take on a similarly titled show that ran in the 1970s and 1980s, the hour-long series airs once a week and focuses on issues of public affairs and democracy. Moyers is excited to be working again. He said, “Now it's time to come back. Old journalists, like old soldiers, never die; we just tell new stories.” Watch clips from the show, read transcripts or catch up with the blog on the show’s Web site. You’ll see that Moyers is still pushing the envelope and doing probing interviews; in April 2008, he interviewed Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who caused such controversy during Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
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