Last Friday, the final installment of the weekly program Bill Moyers
Journal aired on PBS. The Journal, which ran for two stints in the
1970s and '80s and then resumed in 2007, often reflected the
preoccupations and concerns of its host, Bill Moyers; the show routinely examined the costs of war, the conflicting interests of
corporations and citizens, and the media's role in constructing a
national narrative. Since Moyers's final sign-off, reporters and media
analysts alike have been lining up to sing the Journal's praises.
- 'A Body of Work Without Parallel' Eric Alterman, a longtime friend and frequent collaborator of Moyers's, delivers a stirring panegyric in The Nation, calling him "the last unapologetic liberal anywhere in broadcast television." Alterman singles out Moyers's 1986 documentary The Vanishing Family: Crisis in Black America as an example of how the host has "deployed television's unmatched power to focus attention on the voiceless," and concludes that Moyers's "most significant legacy is that... he treated his audience as adult citizens of a republic, who bear collective responsibility for the society we share."
- Why He'll Be Missed At a media workshop this past weekend, Michael Copps, commissioner of the FCC, wrapped up his remarks on the state of the industry with a nod to Moyers: "I can think of no journalist, now or at any time across the annals of our past, who has contributed so much to democracy’s dialogue. The world of fact and the world of ideas are his beat, and he seems always to arrive at his conclusions only after digging first and digging deep for the facts—a kind of intellectual induction too rarely seen on what passes for issues programming these days."
- A 'Tragedy'; an 'Unmitigated Disaster' That's how Daniel De Groot at Open Left characterizes the end of the Journal's run. "Moyers has more than earned his retirement (semi retirement one hopes)," writes De Groot, "but still I lament the withdrawal of a clarion, unabashed liberal voice from the discourse." (Elsewhere on Open Left, Paul Rosenberg takes the opportunity to aim a few barbs at the president: "It's perfectly reflective of the Obama era that we should lose such a distinctive and populist voice, and see it replaced with yet more corporate-friendly pablum.")
- Lyrical Journalism At The Daily Beast, Randy Bean, a former writer and producer of the Journal, offers an aesthetic appreciation of Moyers's elocution. "Listen to one of his commentaries sometime, with your eyes closed," Bean writes. "It’s lyrical stuff—expressive, deeply felt, personal yet globally relevant, beautifully constructed. So it’s not just the location of his voice that I’ll miss, to the left of the political center, nor is it the gentle force of his East Texas inflection. It’s the echo of his words as they’re laid down on an audio track from a claustrophobic recording booth, read from a perfectly corrected script that I started and he finished."
- 'A National Treasure' PBS rounds up tributes from a number of anchors and broadcasting heavyweights, including Dan Rather, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, Paula Kerger, and Stephen Colbert (who lauds Moyers as "everything I never aspire to be: Calm, Thoughtful, and Informative"). Says Brian Williams: "Bill Moyers has been and remains an essential voice in our national conversation. He is the living antithesis to an era of shocking superficiality in our discourse and media. He is the one who introduces us to topics and people not previously on our radar — because he wants us to understand them and know them as he does. That’s what Bill Moyers Journal did — that's what Bill Moyers will always do."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.