Moyers was one of the chief inheritors of the Edward R. Murrow tradition
of "deep-think" journalism. Working alternately on CBS and PBS in
the 1970s and early 1980s, and then almost exclusively on PBS. His
achievements were principally in the areas of investigative documentary
and long-form conversations with some of the world's leading thinkers.
Moyers, who had been a print journalist, ordained Baptist minister,
press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, and newspaper publisher
before coming to television in 1970, gained public and private foundation
support for producing some of television's most incisive investigative
documentaries. Each was delivered in the elegantly written and deceptively
soft-spoken narrations that came, Moyers later said, out of the
story-telling traditions of his East Texas upbringing. Where Edward
R. Murrow had taken on Joseph McCarthy on See It Now and
the agri-business industry in his famous Harvest of Shame
documentary, Moyers examined the failings of constitutional democracy
in his 1974 Essay on Watergate and exposed governmental illegalities
and cover-up during the Iran Contra scandal. He looked at issues
of race, class and gender, at the power media images held for a
nation of "consumers," not citizens, and explored virtually every
aspect of American political, economic and social life in his documentaries.
influential were Moyers' World of Ideas series. Again, Edward
R. Murrow had paved the way in his trans-Atlantic conversations
with political leaders, thinkers and artist on his Small World
program in the late 1950s, but Moyers used his soft, probing
style to talk to a remarkable range of articulate intellectuals
on his two foundation supported interview series on PBS. In discussions
that ranged from an hour to, in the case of mythology scholar Joseph
Campbell, six hours on the air, Moyers brought to television what
he called the "conversation of democracy." He spoke with social
critics like Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, writers like Nigerian
novelist Chinua Achebe, Mexican poet and novelist Carlos Fuentes
and American novelist Toni Morrison, and social analysts like philosopher
Mortimer Adler and University of Chicago sociologist William Julius
Wilson. Moyers engaged voices and ideas that had been seldom if
ever heard on television, and transcribed versions of many of his
series often became best selling books as well (Joseph Campbell
and the Power of Myth, 1988; The Secret Government,
1988; A World of Ideas, 1989; A World of Ideas II,
1990, Healing the Mind, 1992). The Joseph Campbell book was
on the New York Times best seller list for more than a year
and sold 750,000 copies within the first four years of its publication.
television work was as prolific as his publishing record. In all
he produced over six hundred hours of programming (filmed and videotaped
conversations and documentaries) between 1971 and 1989, which comes
out to 33 hours of programming a year or the equivalent of more
than half an hour of programming a week for eighteen years. Moyers
broadcast another one hundred and twenty-five programs between 1989
and 1992 working with a series of producers--27 of them on the first
two World of Ideas series alone. He formed his own company,
Public Affairs Television, in 1986, and distributed many of his
the early 1990s Bill Moyers had established himself as a significant
figure of television talk, his power and influence providing him
access to corridors of power and policy. In January of 1993 he was
invited for a rare overnight visit with President elect Bill Clinton
to discuss the nation's problems before the Clinton Inaugural. Bill
Moyers had by this time become one of the few broadcast journalists
who might be said to approach the stature of Edward R. Murrow. If
Murrow had founded broadcast journalism, Moyers had significantly
extended its traditions.
Photo courtesy of Bill Moyers/ Lawrence Ivy
MOYERS. Born in Hugo, Oklahoma, U.S.A., 5 June 1934. Educated
at North Texas State College; the University of Texas at Austin,
B.A. in journalism, 1956; University of Edinburgh in Scotland, 1956-57;
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas,
B.D., 1959. Married: Judith Suzanne Davidson, 1954, children: William
Cope, Alice Suzanne, and John Davidson. Personal assistant to Senator
Lyndon Johnson, 1960-61; associate director of public affairs, Peace
Corps, 1961-62; deputy director, Peace Corps, 1963; special assistant
to President Lyndon Johnson, 1963-67; press secretary, 1965-67;
publisher of Newsday, 1967-70; producer and editor, Bill Moyers'
Journal, PBS, 1971-76, 1978-81; anchor, USA: People and Politics,
1976; chief correspondent, CBS Reports, 1976-78; senior news
analyst, CBS News, 1981-86; executive editor, Public Affairs Programming
Inc. since 1986. Honorary doctorate, American Film Institute. Recipient:
numerous Emmy Awards; Ralph Lowell medal for contribution to public
television; George Peabody awards, 1976, 1980, 1985-86, 1988-90;
DuPont/Columbia Silver Baton award, 1979, 1986, 1988; Gold Baton
award, 1991; George Polk awards, 1981, 1986. Address: Public Affairs
Television, Inc., 356 West 58th St., New York, New York 10019, U.S.A.
1978-81 Bill Moyers' Journal
1971-72 This Week
1976-78 CBS Reports
1982 Creativity With Bill Moyers
1983 Our Times With Bill Moyers
1984 American Parade (renamed Crossroads)
1984 A Walk Through the 20th Century With Bill Moyers 1987
Moyers: In Search of the Constitution
1988 Bill Moyers' World of Ideas
1988 The Power of Myth
1990 Amazing Grace
1991 Spirit and Nature With Bill Moyers
1993 Healing and the Mind With Bill Moyers
1995 The Language of Life With Bill Moyers
Listening to America. New York: Harper's Magazine Press,
From Philadelphia. New York: Ballantine, 1987.
Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1988.
Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988. A World of Ideas.
New York: Doubleday, 1989.
World of Ideas II. New York: Doubleday, 1990.
on Film: Bill Moyers." American Film (Washington, D.C.),
and the Mind. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
Burns, Ken. "'Moyers: A Second Look'--More Than Meets the Eye."
The New York Times, 14 May 1989.
Jon. "Why Bill Moyers Shouldn't Run for President." The New York
Times, 8 March 1992.
David. "The Following Myth is Made Possible by a Grant from Bill
Moyers." Esquire (New York), October 1989.
Murrow, Edward R.