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Bill Lichtenstein

Bill Lichtenstein
West 47th Street (2003)
Born William Theodore Lichtenstein
(1956-10-03) October 3, 1956 (age 57)
Boston, Massachusetts
Education Brown University (B.A., Political Science and English, 1978)
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (M.S., 1979)
Occupation Print and broadcast journalism; documentary producer
Children Rose
Website

Bill Lichtenstein (born October 3, 1956) is an American print and broadcast journalist and documentary producer. Lichtenstein is president of the Peabody Award-winning independent media production company, Lichtenstein Creative Media, Incorporated.

In 1970 Lichtenstein started as a volunteer at Boston radio station WBCN-FM, then later was an announcer and newscaster.[1] He produced investigative reports for ABC News in the 1980s;[2] and later produced public media, documentary films, and public education campaigns on mental health issues.[3][4][5] Lichtenstein and his company also made early use of emerging media, including the 3-D virtual reality community Second Life.[6][7]

He has written for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation,[8] Village Voice,[9] New York Daily News, Boston Globe and Huffington Post[10] and from 1980 until 2005 was on the faculty of the New School University.

His work has received more than sixty journalism awards[11][12] including a Peabody Award;[13] a Guggenheim Fellowship;[14] eight National Headliner Awards; CINE Golden Eagle;[15] a United Nations Media Award; Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism;[16] and three National News Emmy Award nominations.[17][18]

Early life

Lichtenstein began his career in broadcasting in 1970, at the age of 14, at WBCN-FM, one of the country's original progressive rock radio stations. Lichtenstein worked at WBCN, while in high school, as newscaster and on-air announcer.[19]

He graduated from Brown University[20] in 1978 with a degree in Political Science and English (double major). While at Brown, Lichtenstein worked at WBRU-FM, the 20,000-watt commercial radio station operated by Brown students, and he served as the station's program director in 1975. Lichtenstein received a M.S. degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1979.[21]

ABC News

Lichtenstein began his work in television as a writer for ABC and CBS Sports, including as Chief Writer for CBS's coverage of the 1979 Pan American Games.[22]

From 1979 through 1986, Lichtenstein reported and produced investigative reports for ABC News 20/20, Nightline, and World News Tonight. He was part of the Emmy-winning team with Sylvia Chase and Jeff Diamond that uncovered a fatal flaw in tbs VW Beetle, and along with Stanhope Gould, Bob Sirkin and Steve Tello broke the story of the Atlanta Child Murders in 1979. He collaborated with producers Lowell Bergman and Andrew Cockburn on COINTELPRO: The Secret War, the first network news report on FBI's covert dirty tricks program to disrupt and neutralize political activists, including actress Jean Seberg, and Black Panther Geronimo Pratt. He worked on American Held Hostage: The Secret Negotiations, a three-hour prime time ABC News special hosted by Pierre Salinger, that chronicled the previously unreported, extensive efforts by President Jimmy Carter to gain the release of the American hostages in Iran.[23]

In 1983, he was nominated for three national news Emmy Awards, for Throwaway Kids, a nine-month investigation into abused and dying children in Oklahoma state juvenile institutions,[24] The Danger Within, a report on the dangers of Urea-Formaldehyde home insulation that resulted in a Congressional ban of the product,[25] and Nuclear Preparation: Can We Survive? an investigation into President Ronald Reagan's secret plans for the U.S. to prepare to survive all-out nuclear war.


Lichtenstein produced three investigative reports for ABC News during the 1984 presidential elections that focused on Reagan friend and campaign manager Senator Paul Laxalt (R-Nevada), who reportedly had accepted campaign contributions from leading organized crime figures in the casino industry as Laxalt was pressuring officials at the highest level of the Justice Department to curtail FBI investigations of mob activity in Las Vegas. A second story detailed the horrific conditions in nursing homes run by Reagan's friend and USIA director Charles Wick, and a third report detailed mob connections of Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan. All three reports were killed by ABC before air.[26]

A 1985 Mother Jones magazine cover story, "How ABC Spikes the News: Three Reagan Administration Scandals that Never Appeared on World News Tonight," revealed the three reports were spiked by the network following conversations between ABC corporate executives and the Reagan White House, as part of the network's efforts to gain favor with the Reagan administration to increase the maximum number of local TV stations that any one entity could own.[27]

The events surrounding the three reports were detailed in Mark Hertsgaard's "On Bended Knee,"[28] and "Project Censored" cited the reports as "Three Stories that Might Have Changed the Course of the 1984 Election" in their annual top ten censored stories list in 1984.[29]

Investigative Reporter

In 1986, Lichtenstein was one of the two show producers of the ABC late-night program Jimmy Breslin's People, featuring the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.[30]

He worked in 1986 for The Investigative Group, at the law firm of Rogovin, Huge and Lenzner, then out of house council for the CIA. Headed by former Watergate counsel Terry Lenzner, Lichtenstein worked with IGI on several projects including tracking missing royalties for the Beatles' Apple Records, and working undercover in Perth, Australia with Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP), the mining and steel-making company and the country's largest corporation, to stave off a hostile takeover by conservative industrialist Robert Holmes à Court and a then group of pro-Apartheid South Africans, who were seeking control of BHP to shift their mining operations from South Africa to Australia as Apartheid was ending in South Africa.[31][32]

Lichtenstein reported and exposed the efforts by the White House under President George H.W. Bush, including staffers Bill Kristol and John Sununu, to pressure the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, John Frohnmayer, to cancel four grants to Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, John Fleck and Tim Miller, because of the controversial nature of their art. The NEA Four, as the artists became known, later sued the NEA in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley.[33] Lichtenstein's article in the Village Voice, "The Secret Battle for the NEA",[34] captured third place in the National Headliner Awards for magazine coverage of a major news event.[35]

Lichtenstein Creative Media

Lichtenstein founded the Peabody Award-winning Lichtenstein Creative Media, Inc., in 1990. The company produced the "Voices of an Illness", a documentary series about people who were living with, and recovered from, serious mental illness. The series "set new standards of scientific accuracy in media coverage of mental health," according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and was called "remarkable" in a feature article in Time magazine.[36]

Lichtenstein Creative Media produced "If I Get Out Alive", narrated by Academy Award-winning actress and youth advocate Diane Keaton.[37] The documentary revealed the conditions and brutality faced by young people incarcerated in the adult correctional system. The program was honored with a National Headliner Award and a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.[38]

Bill Lichtenstein produced and was director of photography of the award-winning documentary film, West 47th Street,[39] which aired on PBS' P.O.V., and was called "must see" by Newsweek.[40] The film won the Atlanta and DC Independent Film Festivals.,[41] and an Honorable Mention at the Woodstock Film Festival.

He created and was senior executive producer of the national, one-hour weekly public radio series, The Infinite Mind, which for a decade starting in 1998 examined all aspects of neuroscience, mental health, and the mind.[42][43] The series looked at "how the brain works, and why it sometimes does not, covering mental health, neuroscience and the mind/body connection from scientific, cultural and policy perspectives,"[44] and was public radio's most honored and listened to health and science program.[45]

The Infinite Mind was hosted by Dr. Fred Goodwin, the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health; Dr. Peter Kramer, author of the best-selling "Listening to Prozac, and John Hockenberry, and broke ground and news on such topics as: Addiction; Aspergers Syndrome; Alzheimer's; Bullying; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Depression; Mental Health and Immigrants; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Postpartum Depression; and Teen Suicide. The national broadcast was widely hailed for its coverage of the mental health impact of the 9/11 attacks, and for providing needed resources to public radio listeners.[46]

In addition to researchers and experts, The Infinite Mind built a broad audience by featuring leading scientists and researchers, and notable guests, on a wide variety of topics including John Updike (sleep); actors including Carrie Fisher (living with bipolar); comedians Richard Lewis (addiction) and Lewis Black (anger); the Firesign Theater (humor); author William Styron and his wife Rose Styron (depression); baseball batting champ Wade Boggs (sports psychology); former First Lady Rosalynn Carter (stigma); and live performances and discussions with musicians including Aimee Mann, Jessye Norman, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Loudon Wainwright III, Philip Glass, and Emanuel Ax. The decade-long series received major funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health.[46]

Lichtenstein serves as a judge for the National News Emmy Awards, and as a screener/reviewer for the duPont Awards. He is on the Advisory Board of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism;[47] the National Leadership Council of the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (now known as the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation); the advisory council of the Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health at Columbia University; review committees at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation; and advisory boards of Families for Depression Awareness[48] and the Parents/Professionals Advocacy League.

Lichtenstein's work, and that of Lichtenstein Creative Media, has been honored with the top media awards from the major national mental health organizations, including the National Institute of Mental Health; American Psychiatric Association; National Mental Health Association; National Alliance on Mental Illness; American College of Neuropsychopharmacology; and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.[49]

Lichtenstein's company pioneered the uses as public media of on-line 3-D virtual world, including Second Life.[50] Lichtenstein Creative Media produced the first ever concert and live radio broadcast from Second Life in August 2006, with singer Suzanne Vega and author Kurt Vonnegut, who both appeared in avatar form.[51]

Subsequent events produced by Lichtenstein Creative Media in Second Life include a live press conference with Italian Minister of Infrastructure Antonio Di Pietra,[52] and a live town meeting on Darfur with Mia Farrow, produced in partnership with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.[53] BusinessWeek magazine cited Lichtenstein as one of eight "Savvy CEO's Who Hang Out in Second Life",[54] along with IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner.[55] Lichtenstein wrote the essay "The Transmission of Experience," identifying interactive 3-D virtual reality experiences such as Second Life as being the first to "transmit experience" over distances.[56] Lichtenstein Creative Media maintains a 16-acre virtual broadcast center[57] in Second Life.[58]

From 1980 to 2006, Lichtenstein taught investigative reporting for TV and documentary film production at The New School in New York City.

Dr. Fred Goodwin and The Infinite Mind

On May 9, 2008, Slate reported on a "The Infinite Mind" episode in which psychiatric medications for depression were discussed by host Dr. Goodwin and guests, including the President of the American Psychiatric Association, who had done research supported by drug companies.

On November 21, 2008, the New York Times reported that host Dr. Goodwin had received "at least $1.3 million from 2000 to 2007 giving marketing lectures for drugmakers, income not mentioned on the program." In the Times article, Goodwin asserted that Lichtenstein was aware of this income.[43] Lichtenstein stated that neither he nor any of his production staff were aware of the payments to Goodwin and that the payments violated Goodwin's contract with "The Infinite Mind" that required Goodwin to reveal any activities that conflicted with his work on the public radio program.

On November 30, 2008, National Public Radio' On the Media, reported that an anonymous source supported Goodwin's claim:[59] that Lichtenstein was aware of Goodwin's income from drug makers.

Three months later, on March 12, 2008, On the Media issued a correction to the story and an apology to Lichtenstein,[60] in which they called their report and failure to contact Lichtenstein, "a lapse of journalistic judgment . . . that was a mistake." said NPR On The Media's Brooke Gladstone. "It wasn't fair and it didn't serve our listeners, so this week we did. Lichtenstein told us that he also spoke to that anonymous source, who said that she had no first-hand evidence that he knew of any fees. He emphasized that, in fact, he was not aware of Goodwin’s financial ties to drug companies and that The Infinite Mind had always adhered to standard journalism practice in vetting guests and disclosing conflicts of interest."

New York Times Op-Ed

On September 9, 2012, the Sunday New York Times published an op-ed by Bill Lichtenstein, entitled "A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children".[61] The op-ed exposed the use of restraints and seclusion rooms nationwide, including with Lichtenstein's own then 5-year-old daughter in 2006. The publication of the op-ed received enormous national media and reader response.[62] Since the op-ed appeared other families have come forward with reports that their children had also been placed in isolation in Lexington, MA and nationwide, and the publicity has led to legislative action to outlaw restraint and seclusion rooms in several states including Arizona and Ohio.[63]

On September 16, 2012, the Times published an "editor's note" written by the Times' Sewell Chan, which presented the points to the story disputed by Lexington Public Schools.[64]

Lichtenstein's refuted Lexington's challenges to the story.[62][65][66] In January 2013 the Times reported that it had an editor and fact checker re-report the issues that had been raised about the article, and that there were no errors found with the story.[67]

As a result, the Times article has not been corrected or changed in any manner and remains online as originally published.

On June 29, 2013, the article was honored by the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, the leading award for reporting on kids issues. The judges noted that the story was among those honored that: "packed a punch, stirred the conscience and made an impact; meticulously reported, powerfully delivered stories that shined a spotlight on issues, institutions and communities that rarely receive media attention."

Lichtenstein's article was described by the awards committee as: "After learning that his 5-year-old daughter had been repeatedly locked in a converted closet in her elementary school, the author exposed the largely unknown use of seclusion rooms and physical restraints as forms of punishment in schools around the U.S. The piece attracted a flood of media attention to the issue, sparked tremendous response from readers, and helped coalesce a national effort to end these practices and promote positive behavior interventions in schools." (See Casey Medals press release at: http://www.journalismcenter.org/content/press-release-13)

Lichtenstein's subsequent article, "Mass. Problems for Kids,"[68] exposed a myriad of fatal problems in the Mass. state child welfare system including 103 deaths among kids Mass. in state care during one 36 month period; federal investigations of Lexington (MA) Public Schools for intimidating and retaliating against parents who advocated for their kids, and the details of a federal class action suit against Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick as a result of the state's low ranking for the care and protection of children in foster care.

References

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