Broadcast journalist discusses life’s work

Rachel Thompson

Bill Moyers was preparing to pursue a Ph.D. when he received a call from Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was running for president and sought Moyers’ assistance. Moyers deviated from his plans for a doctorate degree and took the job as White House press secretary.

Moyers, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, spoke about his careers as both broadcast journalist and White House press secretary at an event sponsored by the School of Journalism and the Department of Radio-Television-Film on Monday.

Some of Moyers’ work includes hosting PBS programs “NOW with Bill Moyers” and “Bill Moyers’ Journal.” He has won more than 30 Emmy awards throughout his career, including a Lifetime Emmy Award in 2006. Moyers graduated from UT’s School of Journalism in 1956.

“He’s being gracious and coming back to his old school and wanting to talk to students,” said School of Journalism Director Glenn Frankel.

Moyers said when he started out as an undergraduate at North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas), he wasn’t quite sure of what he wanted to do. He said he initially thought he would be an airforce pilot until he interned for U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson, who instructed him to go to Austin for more opportunity. He transferred to UT shortly after.

“I couldn’t imagine all that’s happened — you don’t know what the next 40-50 years will bring,” Moyers said. “I was still debating my future in my head.”

Moyers said while attending the University he was torn between journalism, religion and teaching, but his instincts led him to journalism. As a student, he worked for The Daily Texan and held a simultaneous job at KTBC. The Texan, he said, taught him the value of telling the truth.

“We had a great editor. It was professional,” he said. “It taught me the importance of getting [reporting] right.”

Moyers said he never really wanted to work as White House press secretary but it did teach him about ethics.

“Almost every issue that crossed my desk, almost every story I ever dealt with, had some kind of ethics,” Moyers said. “I had been prepared for a future I hadn’t anticipated.”

Moyers, who left his position as press secretary to work in news publication and later worked for CBS and NBC, also discussed his career in broadcast journalism and the importance of criticizing our own institutions.

“Journalism is to me about gathering, weighing, organizing, judging and presenting information,” Moyers said. “A lot of journalism on television isn’t about that at all.”

In the midst of a changing media and a tough job market, Moyers said he still encourages students with that burning desire to pursue journalism.

“I’ve been fortunate to take what I have learned and share it with a large audience — to me, that’s an intoxicating pursuit. It puts you at the intersection of so much.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: UT crossroads for journalist