The Legacy Of Firing Line With William F. Buckley Jr.

Friday, April 12, 2019
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Firing Line

The Emmy Award–winning television program Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. ran for 34 seasons (1966–1999) and was the longest-running public-affairs show with a single host in television history. Host and conservative journalist William F. Buckley Jr. was interested first and foremost in respectful and lively debate, engaging in erudite discussions with statesmen, politicians, activists, economists, journalists, scholars, authors, religious figures, philosophers, poets, and actors whose opinions ranged across the political and ideological spectrum. The show was revolutionary in setting a new standard for televising public-affairs debates and was foundational for future public-affairs shows like Uncommon Knowledge. The success and long run of Firing Line proved that there was a place on television for civilized debate between conflicting ideologies that could entertain and inform the American public.

The Hoover Institution Library & Archives’ expansive Firing Line collection includes videotapes of the show’s 1,505 episodes, as well as administrative files, program preparation materials, photographs, transcripts, and sound recordings. The collection, which is open to the public, serves as an invaluable tool for understanding the social, political, and economic changes that marked the late twentieth century. The Hoover Institution Library & Archives also hosts, free of charge, selected full-length Firing Line videos online through its YouTube channel. Notable guests who appeared on Firing Line include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Muhammad Ali, Kurt Vonnegut, Milton Friedman, Groucho Marx, Truman Capote, Thomas Sowell, Mother Teresa, and Friedrich Hayek.

In 2018, PBS announced that it would reprise Firing Line with a new host, Margaret Hoover. The new weekly series upholds the spirit of the original by bringing together bright minds from across the ideological spectrum for vigorous conversation about the important issues of the day. Margaret Hoover has said about the show, “Our mission is to renew the tradition of Firing Line for a new generation, offering a rigorous exchange of opinion with fresh voices addressing the challenges facing our democracy.” New episodes are complemented by archival footage from the original series to frame the issues and give context to discussions, especially with past guests.


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