Bill Lichtenstein during
production of West 47th Street (2003)
|Born||William Theodore Lichtenstein
October 3, 1956
|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|
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.
Lichtenstein began working in 1970 at age 14 as a volunteer and later as an announcer and newscaster at WBCN-FM in Boston. He later produced investigative reports for ABC News  and public radio and TV programs and documentary films on social justice issues as well as educational outreach campaigns.  Lichtenstein and his company also made early use of emerging new media, including the 3-D virtual reality community Second Life.
He writes for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Village Voice, New York Daily News, Boston Globe and Huffington Post. From 1980 to 2006, Lichtenstein taught investigative reporting for TV and documentary film production at The New School in New York City.
His work has received more than 60 journalism awards including a Peabody Award; a United Nations Media Award, Guggenheim Fellowship; eight National Headliner Awards; CINE Golden Eagle; a United Nations Media Award; Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism; and three National News Emmy Award nominations.
He graduated from Brown University 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.
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 the 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 the FBI's covert program of dirty tricks used 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.
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, The Danger Within, a report on the dangers of Urea-Formaldehyde home insulation that resulted in a Congressional ban of the product, 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 the Reagan administration, including about Reagan friend and campaign manager Senator Paul Laxalt (R-Nevada), who reportedly accepted campaign contributions from leading organized crime figures at the same time Laxalt was pressuring federal officials to curtail FBI investigations of mob activity in Nevada. 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.
A 1985 Mother Jones magazine cover story, "How ABC Spikes the News: Three Reagan Administration Scandals that Never Appeared on World News Tonight," revealed that the stories were killed following pressure from the Reagan White House on ABC at the same time that ABC was seeking Reagan administration support to increase the maximum number of local TV stations that any one entity could own.
The events surrounding the three reports were detailed in Mark Hertsgaard's "On Bended Knee," 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.
Lichtenstein 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 investigations including tracking missing royalties for the Beatles' Apple Records, and working undercover in Perth, Australia with Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP), to prevent a hostile takeover of the mining company and the country's largest corporation, 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.
Lichtenstein reported and exposed White House efforts under President George H.W. Bush, involving staffers Bill Kristol and John Sununu, to pressure the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, John Frohnmayer, to cancel four grants to controversial Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, John Fleck and Tim Miller. Lichtenstein's article in the Village Voice, "The Secret Battle for the NEA", captured third place in the National Headliner Awards for magazine coverage of a major news event. The NEA Four, as the artists became known, later sued the NEA in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley.
Lichtenstein Creative Media
Lichtenstein founded the Peabody Award-winning Lichtenstein Creative Media, Inc., in 1990. The company produced the "Voices of an Illness" documentary series, which featured 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.
Lichtenstein Creative Media produced the documentary "If I Get Out Alive", narrated by Academy Award-winning actress and youth advocate Diane Keaton, which revealed the harsh 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.
Bill Lichtenstein produced and was director of photography of the award-winning documentary film, West 47th Street, which aired on PBS' P.O.V., and was called "must see" by Newsweek. The film won the Atlanta and DC Independent Film Festivals., and an Honorable Mention at the Woodstock Film Festival.
Lichtenstein 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 was public radio's most honored and listened to health and science program. The Infinite Mind examined all aspects of neuroscience, mental health, and the mind, including "how the brain works, and why it sometimes does not from a scientific, cultural and policy perspectives,". 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.
In addition to leading 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.
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; 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 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.
Lichtenstein's company pioneered the uses as public media of on-line 3-D virtual world, including Second Life. 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.
Subsequent events produced by Lichtenstein Creative Media in Second Life include a live press conference with Italian Minister of Infrastructure Antonio Di Pietra, and a live town meeting on Darfur with Mia Farrow, produced in partnership with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. BusinessWeek magazine cited Lichtenstein as one of eight "Savvy CEO's Who Hang Out in Second Life", along with IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. 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. Lichtenstein Creative Media maintains a 16-acre virtual broadcast center in Second Life.
Dr. Fred Goodwin and The Infinite Mind
A May 9, 2008 article in Slate reported that during a "The Infinite Mind" episode, host Dr. Goodwin and guests, including the President of the American Psychiatric Association, had discussed psychiatric medications without revealing that they 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. 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 formally reveal any activities that conflicted with his work on the public radio program, which he had not.
Three months later, on March 12, 2008, On the Media corrected and apologized for the story and failure to get a response from Lichtenstein. NPR On The Media's Brooke Gladstone called their report "a lapse of journalistic judgment . . . a mistake" and stated on the broadcast "It wasn't fair and it didn't serve our listeners . . . 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
The September 9, 2012 Sunday New York Times published an op-ed by Bill Lichtenstein entitled "A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children". that exposed the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms in schools nationwide, including in 2006 with Lichtenstein's own then 5-year-old daughter. The op-ed received significant responses. and other families came forward with reports of their children also being restrained and placed in isolation rooms in Lexington, Massachusetts and across the US. The resulting publicity led to legislative action to outlaw school use of restraints and seclusion rooms in states including Arizona and Ohio.
On September 16, 2012, the New York Times published an "editor's note" written by' Sewell Chan containing Lexington Public School's rebuttal to the article. Lichtenstein subsequently refuted Lexington's challenges to the story. In January 2013 the Times reported an editor and fact checker had re-reported the issues that had been raised about the article, and that there were no errors found with the story.
The article was honored by the 2013 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, with the judges stating 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." 
Lichtenstein's subsequent article, "Mass. Problems for Kids," exposed a myriad of fatal problems in the Massachusetts state child welfare system including 103 deaths of children during a 36 month period; federal investigations of Lexington Public Schools for intimidating and retaliating against parents who advocated for their children, and the details of a federal class action suit against Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick as a result of the state's low ranking for the care and protection of children in foster care.
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