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In more than 25 years on the airwaves, Bill Moyers has established a niche unique to TV journalists, becoming the social anthropologist of the USA, the objective eye of why America is what it is and Americans are who they are. He is both the interviewer and chronicler who dares to believe that American TV viewers want to think and learn, to contemplate themselves, their pasts, their times and their futures. Although he has been associated with both CBS and NBC, Moyers has often sought the latitude of the less lucrative PBS and his TV programs--which he has moderated, hosted and usually produced--have focused on subjects ranging from the origins and connection to the song "Amazing Grace" to celebrating poets and poetry, to investigating myths, the Constitution, and even the scriptures. Moyers has spoken to America, but more key--he has listened.
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, Moyers began his career in journalism at age 16 as a cub reporter at the MARSHALL NEWS MESSENGER in Texas. After attending college--earning degrees in journalism and, later, a master of divinity from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary--Moyers began in broadcasting as assistant news editor of KTBS, a radio station in Austin, TX. His career then took a decided turn when he went to Washington, DC, as special assistant to fellow Texan, Senator Lyndon Johnson. He served as Deputy Director of The Peace Corps in the Kennedy administration and was later tapped as special assistant to the President Johnson (1963-1965) before serving as presidential press secretary from 1965-1967.
Moyers left Washington to become publisher of NEWSDAY, a newspaper headquartered on Long Island, NY. In 1970, Moyers, already a familiar TV face from the many White House press briefings, took to the airwaves as host of the PBS series "This Week." Between 1971 and 1976 and again from 1978 and 1981, he hosted "Bill Moyers' Journal" (PBS), a program that focused not on the headlines concerning America, but on issues closer to the heartland and neighborhoods of the USA. Moyers then moved to CBS as a senior news analyst and commentator, contributing to "The Evening News With Dan Rather" as well.
But he retained his connection with PBS, offering the first of his many in-depth topical looks, "Creativity With Bill Moyers" in 1982. CBS gave him his own primetime program "Our Times With Bill Moyers" in 1983, but it could not sustain the kind of ratings requirements and demographics broadcast TV requires. Moyers tried a again with "The American Parade" (CBS, 1984), which focused on the people, places, and things of the country, but also failed to meet ratings requirements. He decided to return to PBS as his base of operation in 1986, joining with his wife Judith Davidson to form Public Affairs Television, Inc, to produce the programs he would host. His return to PBS got off to a powerful start with three short series, each informative and provocative in its own way: "Bill Moyers: In Search of the Constitution" (1987), "Moyers: God and Politics" (1987) and "Moyers: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth" (1988). Subsequent series have included "Bill Moyers' World of Ideas" (1988), "Moyers: The Power of the Word" (1989) and "Listening to America With Bill Moyers: (1992). In 1995, Moyers briefly joined NBC News as a senior news analyst and commentator and was he first host of its cable network MSNBC's "Internight" (1996).
Wherever Moyers hung his hat through the years, his on-going series do not reflect the myriad of specials he also produced and hosted, programs which have focused on politics, political campaigns, families, Islam and Holy Wars, Christianity and Holy Wars, and Americans such as Pete Seeger, poet laureate Rita Dove, historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, violence, money, faith. In his "Portrait of Maya Angelou" (PBS, 1982), Moyers and the poet/writer/commentator/activist walked the streets of Stamps, Arkansas, where she was raised and the words of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" came alive. Moyers walked the terrain of Normandy for "D-Day to the Rhine" (PBS, 1990), which looked back on the victories and setbacks of World War II and the people involved. In "Amazing Grace" (PBS, 1990), he found the true origins of this hymn, so integral a part of both Caucasian and African American church services, and asked several notables--among them opera diva Jessye Norman--what the song meant to them. Moyers put the soul of the Holocaust in front of the cameras for "Facing Hate With Elie Wiesel" (PBS, 1991), and looked at "Minimum Wage" (PBS, 1992), "Families First" (PBS, 1992), and the Bible with "Genesis: A Living Conversation" (PBS, 1986). In the latter, he had the celebrated and the not-so-celebrated reading and considering the text that is the foundation for three major religions and several billion people. Throughout it all, Moyers has been heralded with virtually every award given for journalism. His name has come to personify not just thoughtfulness and thought for viewers, but also fairness and the true objectivity of journalism. Although associated with both moderates and liberals during his tenure in Washington, DC, and a Baptist with down-home roots and values, Moyers carefully avoids displaying any partisanship. He has introduced white America to black America and offered radicals and reactionaries, but has never allowed his programs to be used as platforms.
Moyers has written numerous books, many best sellers that are often compilations of his TV programs or expansions on their themes.
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