The New York Times Obituary
Bill Monroe, 90
NBC Journalist, hosted Meet The Press
By Douglas Martin, The New York Times,
February 18, 2011
Bill Monroe, a television journalist whose long career with NBC included stints as the network's Washington bureau chief and moderator of its Sunday interview program, Meet the Press, died on Thursday at a nursing home in Potomac, Md. He was 90.
The cause was complications of hypertension, his daughter Lee Monroe said. He moved to the nursing home after taking a fall in December.
From 1975 to 1984, Mr. Monroe was the producer and moderator of Meet the Press, the long-running Sunday morning news program built around interviews with national and international figures. He was its fourth producer and moderator, succeeding Lawrence E. Spivak, after serving as a panelist himself.
On camera Mr. Monroe was serious and direct. In 1976, soon after becoming the permanent moderator, he grilled Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, who had once championed segregation and was running for president. Have you personally changed your views about segregation? Mr. Monroe asked.
When Mr. Wallace did not respond directly, Mr. Monroe interrupted him and repeated the question twice more. Mr. Wallace went on to say that race relations were better in the South than in other parts of the country.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter used a Meet the Press interview with Mr. Monroe to announce that the United States would boycott the Olympics in Moscow that year to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr. Monroe was previously Washington editor of the Today show; before that he was NBC's Washington bureau chief. He was succeeded on Meet the Press by the co-hosts Marvin Kalb and Roger Mudd and later returned to Today to present a broadcast equivalent of newspapers' letters-to-the-editor columns. People who wrote compelling letters were interviewed in their homes or places of work.
After retiring from NBC in 1986, Mr. Monroe was editor of The Washington Journalism Review and worked for the Defense Department as ombudsman for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. His last job was editing The Early Bird, a compendium of newspaper stories the Pentagon sent to bases around the world.
William Blanc Monroe Jr. was born in New Orleans on July 17, 1920, and graduated from Tulane University with a degree in philosophy and a Phi Beta Kappa key in 1942. He worked for United Press while in college and served in the Army Air Forces in the Mediterranean during World War II.
After the war he worked as a newsman on local radio and a local newspaper in New Orleans before becoming news director of WDSU's AM, FM and television stations in New Orleans.
As part of the job he began writing editorials and delivering them himself, many of which called for calm during the early days of the civil rights movement. Some editorials provoked death threats.
In 1959, WDSU-TV won a George Foster Peabody Award for work done under Mr. Monroe's direction. He also won a Peabody in 1973 for his news reporting on the Today show.
Early in his career, Mr. Monroe fought for greater press access to courtrooms and legislative chambers. In 1972, he testified before Congress to criticize the fairness doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission. Saying he was speaking for himself and not NBC, he argued that instead of being licensed and regulated by the F.C.C., broadcasters should be accorded the same unfettered First Amendment rights as newspapers.
He testified that the regulatory system led broadcasters to fear that Congress or the F.C.C. would discipline them for political reasons. The result, he said, was that they felt boldness equals trouble with the government, blandness equals peace.
In addition to his daughter Lee, Mr. Monroe is survived by three other daughters, Arthe Monroe Phillips, Catherine Monroe and Maria Monroe Poole; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/bu...ref=television