March 21, 2005: Headlines: Staff: Journalism: Syracuse Post Standard,: Bill Moyers says he exercises, reads books, listens to music, wrestles with his grandchildren and takes time to just "sit and vegetate."

Peace Corps Online: Directory: USA: Special Report: Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Staffer Bill Moyers : March 21, 2005: Headlines: Staff: Journalism: Syracuse Post Standard,: Bill Moyers says he exercises, reads books, listens to music, wrestles with his grandchildren and takes time to just "sit and vegetate."

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Bill Moyers says he exercises, reads books, listens to music, wrestles with his grandchildren and takes time to just "sit and vegetate."

Bill Moyers says he exercises, reads books, listens to music, wrestles with his grandchildren and takes time to just sit and vegetate.

Bill Moyers says he exercises, reads books, listens to music, wrestles with his grandchildren and takes time to just "sit and vegetate."

Bill Moyers: Then, now and future
Monday, March 21, 2005
By William LaRue
Staff writer

Bill Moyers says he exercises, reads books, listens to music, wrestles with his grandchildren and takes time to just "sit and vegetate."

But three months after he quit as host and executive editor of PBS news show "NOW With Bill Moyers," he doesnít sound exactly like the guy who was telling people only last September that he was ready to retire from "active journalism."

On the telephone from his office in New York City, Moyers, 70, rattles off a list of his recent outings, which include a trip to Vienna, another to Mexico, and a family reunion in the South.

He also mentions penning an article that ran this month in The New York Review of Books.

Then there was his public appearance earlier this month in California, with another coming at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University.

Moyers, in a 25-minute conversation, doesnít once use the word "retirement." He says heís now up in the air over what he might do during what he labels "Act 3 of my life."

"I cannot honestly tell you right now what that is. Iíve set a date of Sept. 1 to try to make some decisions. I still have a lot of stories Iíd like to turn into documentaries. I still have a lot of people Iíd like to interview," Moyers says. "On the other hand, Iíve been thinking about other alternatives and I just havenít made a decision yet."

With his Texas drawl and soft laugh, thereís a folksy quality to a chat with Moyers, who proudly notes at one point, "I went to work at age of 16 at the little newspaper in my hometown (of Marshall, Texas), and Iíve never stopped."

Over the years, he has been a Baptist minister, deputy director of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy administration and press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s. He later became publisher of the Long Island newspaper Newsday, an analyst and commentator on CBS, then a producer of documentaries and other programs for PBS.

While he enjoys reading about history ¯ he notes that a stack of books on his desk includes "America's Lost War: Vietnam, 1945 to 1975" by Charles E. Neu ¯ Moyers says he finds it hard to get motivated to write a long-promised book about Johnson.

"I'm not sure that I think the past is as important as the present and the future," he says.

When he launched "NOW" in January 2002 with his wife, Judith, as co-editor, Moyers announced that his goal was to focus on stories not covered well by other public affairs shows.

Since leaving the program, Moyers says, he hasn't had a chance to see for himself if the show carries on that mission, although he expresses confidence in veteran journalist David Brancaccio, who replaced him as host.

"I know he's doing well, without seeing it. We taped them all, but I haven't had time to look."

Moyers says he's looking forward to the SU appearance, noting it will be a format in which "tables will be turned," making him the one to answer questions. He will be interviewed by SU religion and media associate professor R. Gustav Niebuhr before inviting audience questions.

Moyers expects some of the topics to include media consolidation, the government's growing zeal for secrecy and what he calls the "fusion of ideology and theology," all of which he believes threaten democracy in America.

Niebuhr (pronounced NEE-boar) says Moyers represents the "gold standard" of television broadcasting, unafraid of tackling complicated subjects for mass audiences.

"He has this great faith in the American people to be curious about their world and important matters," he says.

But not everyone is a fan of Bill Moyers.

Brent Bozell, president of Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, wrote in an essay in December that he considered Moyers a hypocrite for complaining about the ideological bent of the right-wing media.

"No one has heaped more invective, waved more bloody shirts and uncorked more pure propaganda than Moyers in the last three years on his weekly PBS dronefest," Bozell wrote. "Just because he thinks he can get away with lobbing his rhetorical bombs as long as he sounds like a soft-spoken Texas grandpa doesn't mean his words are any less outrageous." A few years ago, Fox News Channel talk-show host Bill O'Reilly put Moyers on the defensive by accusing him of "profiting from taxpayer money" by keeping some money from home-video sales of his public-TV documentaries.

Even though Moyers quickly issued a statement that his documentaries were funded by independent sources, not PBS, the criticism had a lasting sting.

His voice turns steely as Moyers argues that the criticism of him is part of a strategy by conservatives in the media to personally punish those who say critical things about the Bush administration.

"You're talking about the poster boy for such attacks from the right," Moyers says. "They have this megaphone they can raise up and shout you down, or at least tar you with so many accusations, smears and complaints that, you know, people say, 'What's going on there?'"

Moyers says he worries this sort of harassment will weaken the zeal of journalists and their corporate employers to snoop around government and ask questions that keep democracy alive.

He quotes journalist and author Richard Reeves, who once said that "real news is the news you and I need to keep our freedoms."

"I know that sounds highfalutin, but I believe it's true, and we're not getting much news like that," Moyers says. "It's not a healthy time for knowing what we need to know to keep our freedoms."

The details

What: "An Interview With Bill Moyers" featuring views from the longtime public-television journalist on a range of current issues.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University.

Admission: Free and open to the public.

Bill Moyers

Age: 70.

Hometown: Born in Hugo, Okla., and raised in Marshall, Texas.

Family: Wife, Judith, three grown children and five grandchildren.

Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Texas at Austin in 1956 and a bachelor of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Texas, 1959.

Employment: Associate director and then deputy director for the Peace Corps, 1961-63; special assistant and press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, 1964-67; publisher of Long Island newspaper Newsday, 1967-70; producer and editor, "Bill Moyers' Journal," PBS, 1970-76 and 1978-81; chief correspondent, "CBS Reports," 1976-78; senior news analyst, CBS News, 1981-86; executive editor of production company Public Affairs Programming, 1986 to present; and host and editor of "NOW With Bill Moyers," PBS, 2002-04.

Honors: In addition to more than 30 Emmy awards, Moyers received nine George Peabody awards, five DuPont-Columbia University awards, and two George Polk awards, including its recent Career Achievement Award.

© 2005 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.





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