December 17, 2004: Headlines: Staff: Journalism: Television: Newsday: Moyers' leaving 'NOW' after 33 years at PBS is a blow to inspired journalism

Peace Corps Online: Directory: USA: Special Report: Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers: December 17, 2004: Headlines: Staff: Journalism: Television: Newsday: Moyers' leaving 'NOW' after 33 years at PBS is a blow to inspired journalism

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Moyers' leaving 'NOW' after 33 years at PBS is a blow to inspired journalism

Moyers' leaving 'NOW' after 33 years at PBS is a blow to inspired journalism

Moyers' leaving 'NOW' after 33 years at PBS is a blow to inspired journalism

Departure of grace
Moyers' leaving 'NOW' after 33 years at PBS is a blow to inspired journalism

December 17, 2004

Argue all you want whether Tom Brokaw's retirement from daily broadcasting or Dan Rather's impending step down will leave TV news or public discourse appreciably diminished, but in the case of Bill Moyers, who is abdicating his weekly slot on PBS after tonight's edition of "NOW" (8:30, WNET/13), there's nothing to debate.

No other broadcaster has brought conscience and curiosity more effectively to bear on TV programming than the former divinity student, Peace Corps deputy director, presidential press secretary and Newsday publisher from Marshall, Texas, who began a prodigiously fruitful relationship with public television 33 years ago.

Moyers has used his TV gig to acquaint his viewers with an amazing array of issues and people, from the Iran-Contra scandal to workplace safety, from philosophers such as Mortimer Adler to mountain climbers such as Dr. Charles Houston.

He has blessed us with programs about the Hudson River Valley, the genesis of the hymn "Amazing Grace," death and dying, poetry and, most famously, "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth," the DVD of which describes as "one of the greatest interviews ever recorded."

In a conversation this week, Moyers said he began thinking about easing up this past summer. "I'm not leaving because anyone or anything is pushing me, but because something is pulling me," he said. "I was about to turn 70, and while there's no marker at that border, this is unfamiliar territory. It's as if some imaginary trip wire breaks and the little odometer on your psychic dashboard starts clicking faster and faster. All of a sudden, that horizon that once seemed far, far away, looms right there in front of you. I just felt this irresistible urge to slow down, take my foot off the accelerator, touch it to the brake gently but surely, and start negotiating out of the fast lane. I cannot tell you anything more profound than that."

But slowing down is not quitting, Moyers added. His post-"NOW" to-do list includes a book about his experiences in Washington and possibly another "on my run in journalism - not that many people like to read old journalists' memoirs. And I have a few nagging ideas in the back of my head about some television projects. I also want to be a little more of an advocate than you can be as a journalist."

That last comment surely will elicit a snicker from Moyers' detractors. To certain right-leaning Americans, he personifies the alleged liberal bias of public broadcasting. But Moyers is still having none of it.

"Someone asked me recently if a conservative could do what I do and I said, 'Yes, if he puts journalism first,'" Moyers said. "I don't believe journalists should be part of any faction. I don't believe they ought to try to elect anybody to office. I believe you have to hew to certain standards of fairness and accuracy, that you have to make sure you reach conclusions based on evidence, not assertion. Ideologues embrace a world view that cannot be changed, because they admit no evidence to the contrary."

Moyers' final "NOW" telecast, before he turns over the reins to the very able David Brancaccio, will deal with an issue dear and darkening to his heart: how conglomerate ownership is affecting journalism and democracy.

"You've got the decline of mainstream journalism in challenging authority, and you've got the rise of a right-wing ideological media that speaks for authority," he said. "And that means that the number of independent voices that are trying to verify the truth are increasingly squeezed and suffocated off the playing field.

"I still believe that journalism is an ethical practice because it is obligated to try to respect evidence, documentation and credibility," he said. "If Dan Rather - despite his mistakes, and we've all made them - did on the evening news every night what Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity do every night, he wouldn't survive, because we just don't accept that from journalism. So you've got political pornography masquerading as news and mainstream news that is increasingly struggling to stay above water. That's why I keep coming back to it."

When Moyers signs off tonight around 9:30, there will, no doubt, be rejoicing in some quarters. To those for whom the occasion will be tearful, may I suggest a couple of stanzas of "Amazing Grace."

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."

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Story Source: Newsday

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Staff; Journalism; Television



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