Friday, April 11, 2008

Bill Moyers, Teller of Hard Truths

Last week at the fifth annual Ridenhour Prize awards ceremony, sponsored by The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation, Bill Moyers was awarded the Courage Prize. I've been reading this headline on emails from my long list of Usual Suspects since that ceremony, without a clear idea what the Ridenhour Prizes are. So, finally having some free time this morning, I used it to learn more about these prizes. They were established by The Nation Institute and The Fertel Foundation in partnership with The Fund for Constitutional Government, Government Accountability Project and The Project on Government Oversight, "to recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society."

The prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that one-time whistleblower and lifetime investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Each award carries a $10,000 stipend. So, okay, those of you to whom the Viet Nam War is but a historical event, may not recognize the name of Ron Ridenhour; but his name will bring chills to those my age and older who were glued to our televisions and newspapers during the sixties and seventies. In 1969, as a VN veteran, Ridenhour was responsible for bringing the events of the My Lai Massacre to the attention of the world, via a letter he wrote to Congress and the Pentagon. Ridenhour later went on to become an honored investigative journalist, dying much too young of a heart attack ten years ago. Who he was and what he believed shines forth in this quote attributed to him in a March 16, 1993 LA Times article:

Some people -- most, it seems -- will, under some circumstances, do anything someone in authority tells them to.... Government institutions, like most humans, have a reflexive reaction to the exposure of internal corruption and wrongdoing: No matter how transparent the effort, their first response is to lie, conceal and cover up. Also like human beings, once an institution has embraced a particular lie in support of a particular coverup, it will forever proclaim its innocence.
We need people in the military, in the media, with Ridenhour's guts and standards today, when we see history repeating itself in headlines like this one: Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'Detailed Discussions Were Held About Techniques to Use on al Qaeda Suspects

And it would appear that we do still have them. This year's Ridenhour Prize recipients are Matthew Diaz, Truth_Telling Prize (please read Matthew's story here), James D. Scurlock, Book Prize, and Mill Moyers, Courage Prize. Anyone who watches Bill Moyers' Journal with any regularity knows Bill's courage in seeking out the truth and exposing it. If I didn't watch Moyers listen to Amy Goodman, and read a variety of progressive blogs, I sometimes think that I wouldn't have any idea what's really going on in this country, or indeed the world. In awarding the price to Moyers, the committee said this (and more):

The 2008 Ridenhour Courage Prize is awarded to Bill Moyers in recognition of his fierce embrace of the public interest and his advocacy of media pluralism. Throughout his distinguished broadcast career, Moyers has contributed an unyielding moral voice to our national discourse. In the face of political and institutional opposition, he has fought tenaciously on behalf of open debate and liberal values, and against the corporate takeover of culture and information that actively threatens to weaken our democracy.

In recent years, Moyers has championed the expansion of critical, independent print and web-based journalism, articulating and helping to implement the vision of an information alternative to the mainstream media. Bill Moyers’ exemplary career in journalism has embodied the theme—so central to the Ridenhour Prize process—of resistance to an unacceptable status quo.

Bill's acceptance speech is a jewel and a treasure, something everyone working in any form of media, including bloggers, must read and take into our hearts, as this snippet alone may show:
After my government experience, it took me a while to get my footing back in journalism. I had to learn all over again that what is important for the journalist is not how close you are to power, but how close you are to reality. Over the last forty years, I would find that reality in assignment after assignment, from covering famine in Africa and war in Central America to inner-city families trapped in urban ghettos and middle-class families struggling to survive in an era of downsizing across the heartland. I also had to learn one of journalism's basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. We journalists are of course obliged to cover the news, but our deeper mission is to uncover the news that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.
Please read the entire acceptance speech here .

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posted at 12:11:00 PM by marigolds2

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