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PBS's Bill Moyers leaves

Bill Moyers will leave public television after 40

Bill Moyers will leave public television after 40 years in the business. Photo Credit: pbs/bill moyers journal



  Bill Moyers is signing off from PBS tomorrow night, for what may be the last time in a career at the service that began all the way back in 1971, or just after he left Newsday as publisher.

 It's a remarkable landmark departure, and there is neither time or space - take that back; there's always space enough on the web - to lay everything this career has been or meant. But...Moyers has been a controversial figure and an esteemed one. He worked with LBJ on the Great Society - but got tarred by an LBJ edit demanding he seek private information from the FBI on individuals working in his administration. He left his boss's side before he was consumed, Prometheus-like, by the war, and joined Newsday as an activist publisher who ultimately clashed with his boss, Harry Guggenheim.

 And then, "Bill Moyers Journal," the very show that wraps tomorrow night. ("BMJ" actually did go on a lonnng hiatus, and the current iteration has been around a few years.)

 Bill also went to CBS, was briefly an Eric Sevareid-like commentator, then had a wild falling out there. What a moment that was! CBS was in the middle of a takeover brawl between current management and Larry Tisch, and was in a state of almost complete mental collapse. For reasons too complicated to lay out here, Moyers got on the horn to a Newsweek reporter and dictated a famous letter about the grand CBS News division, declaring that it was going to hell, and included this famous line: "Pretty soon, tax policy had to compete with stories about three-legged sheep, and the three-legged sheep won." The letter was devastating - sort of clarion assault on the powers that be at CBS, and Tisch's victory was sealed with weeks, if not days. (You might say Bill's letter backfired.)

 He quit went back to PBS where he has pretty much stayed ever since, doing some brilliant work - I was a fan of "Now" - and some immensely popular work too. In terms of success, his "Power of Myth" series ranked right up there with Ken Burns' "Civil War," and sealed Bill's role as a major PBS force.

He also used the forum to absolutely pound commercial news media - particularly commercial news media run by one Rupert Murdoch. He became a darling of the left-liberal media, though was pretty much ignored by the righties at Fox - and don't expect any fond farewells on FNC tomorrow, by the way.

  That's the very (very) shorthand version of this amazing career.

  Why is Bill leaving? Well, he's not really saying why. Requests for all exit interviews have been rejected.
 But he IS retiring and it looks like it this departure is for good.

 He wrote this a couple weeks ago:

 "I'm leaving for one reason alone: It's time to go. I'll be 76 in a few weeks, and while I don't consider myself old (my father lived into his 80s, my mother into her 90s) there are some things left to do that the deadlines and demands of a weekly broadcast don't permit. At 76, it's now or never. I actually informed my friends at PBS of my decision over a year ago, and planned to leave at the end of last December. But they asked me to continue another four more months while they prepare a new series for Friday night broadcast. I agreed, but said at the time - April 30 and not a week longer.

It wasn't easy deciding to close the JOURNAL. I like what I do, I cherish my colleagues, and my viewers remain loyal and engaged. I will miss the virtual community that has grown up around the broadcast - kindred spirits across the country whose unseen but felt presence reminds me of why I have kept at this work so long. But it has indeed been a long time (almost 40 years since I launched the original JOURNAL in 1971), and that's why I can assure you that my departure is entirely voluntary. "Time brings everything," an ancient wise man said. Including new beginnings.


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