A Letter from Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers, because of a family illness, was not able to attend the Observer’s 50th anniversary Gala in person. He sent the following letter to share with our readers— o much for the best-laid plans… Although I’ve been looking forward to celebrating the 50th celebration of The Texas Observer with you for almost a year now—and thinking hard about the remarks you so generously asked me to make—I am not going to be able to come, after all. Please know that I was deeply honored by your invitation to speak on the 4th. I wanted to be there to say that although I came later than some to the circle of kinship shared by friends and readers of the Observer, no one in that circle is more grateful for its witness throughout the years. It took me awhile after I left Washington to get my footing in journalism; it took me awhile after my time in government to realize that what’s important to the journalist is not how close we are to power but how close we are to reality. I learned that in no small way because of the Observer’s habit of challenging the official view of reality and getting as close as possible to the verifiable truth. Willie Morris befriended me, and got me started again in journalism when my fortunes were low; Ronnie Dugger remains to me the exemplar of living a life of conviction at the cost of the fame and fortune that could have come to so gifted a man if only he had compromised; Robert Sherrill’s power to connect the dots and lay the record bare had no equal, and I say that as one whose pomposity he sometimes, and deservedly, skewered; Molly Ivins is the woman I would like to be in the Next Life, providing I can be even half the journalist she is. I could have gone on—tipping my hat to all those—Northcott and King and Brammer and Bedichek and Maverick and….well, the list is long….for the instruction and example and wisdom and laughs they provided me in issue after issue. And I would have gone on if I had made it there on the 4th. I would have said thanks to a crowd of folks who have always acted as if journalism mattered, and who have shown, as the late Martha Gellhorn once put it, that “serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader.” The Observer’s proved that over and again, right there in the belly of the beast, in the cradle of oligarchy. In getting ready to come down I immersed myself in Fifty Years of the Texas Observer, reminded page after page that the best moments in the history of the press have come not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it. I wish I could have been there to say it in person.