As we celebrate fifteen years of providing some of the most compelling information on the dial, we are taking time to reflect back on some memorable projects that left their mark. My most memorable project involved esteemed journalist Bill Moyers. In 2001, Bill Moyers and longtime collaborator Sherry Jones put together a documentary called Trade Secrets for PBS about the chemical industry and chemicals that we are all exposed to on a regular basis.
Thanks to legal discovery in court case, the team got access to files called the Ross archive where hundreds of thousands of documents were unearthed, going deeper into the chemical industry than ever before. What they found was a stockpile of information the chemical industry never thought the public would see.
This discovery led to a larger story about how much we’re exposed to. In fact, in the past fifty-plus years, more than 75,000 chemicals have been created and put into products or released into our air, our soil and our water. Today, every man, woman and child in the United States and beyond, has a “chemical soup” of synthetic chemicals in their bodies, even including newborn babies.
To test our “chemical load,” Bill Moyers put his own body to the test. Even though he never lived near a chemical plant, tests showed that his body contained 84 industrial chemicals, including 31 different types of PCBs (toxic chemicals), 13 different dioxins, and pesticides such as DDT.
We worked with Moyers to publicize this important documentary through a series of radio interviews he conducted on the topic. He completed twenty interviews across the country, sharing his personal story and stressing the importance of this environmental and public health issue for the nation to address.
Journalists are normally seen as detached, objective observers, but Moyers jumped right in putting his own body to the test. The thing that so impressed me was his willingness to suspend his own privacy in the quest for public awareness. And, that made a meaningful, lasting impression on me, and I’m sure on the millions of listeners he reached through his radio media tour interviews and viewers of his television documentary.