2014 Bombeck Workshop faculty: Phil Donahue
In 1967, Phil Donahue changed the face of daytime television, pioneering the audience-participation talk format as the host of the Donahue show, a 29-year run which stands as the longest of its kind in U.S. television history. His TV journalism earned him 20 Emmy Awards — nine as host and 11 for the show — as well as the George Foster Peabody Award; the President’s Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus; and induction into the Academy of Television’s Hall of Fame. TV Guide named Donahue one of the Greatest Television Shows of All Time.
Mr. Donahue has frequently been lauded for his groundbreaking interviews with world leaders and newsmakers — including Muhammad Ali, Johnny Carson, Ayn Rand, Nelson Mandela, Madalyn Murray O’Hair (his first Donahue guest), Margaret Meade and all of the presidents since Jimmy Carter. In 1985, he introduced satellite “spacebridge” telecasts between the United States and the Soviet Union, and then brought his talk show to Russia for a week of programs. He was the first Western journalist to visit Chernobyl after the nuclear accident there.
Mr. Donahue also has headlined numerous network and public television specials, including the Emmy Award-winning children’s special, Donahue and Kids, the landmark Ryan White Talks to Kids about AIDS and The Human Animal. In 2006, he co-produced and co-directed Body of War, a documentary film about a young Iraq War veteran left in a wheelchair by enemy gunfire who begins questioning America’s involvement in the war. Universally hailed by critics (“almost unbearably moving,” wrote Time magazine), Body of War captured, among others, the Best Documentary award from the National Board of Review; the Grand Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival; and a People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
Mr. Donahue is also an admired writer, whose opinion columns have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. He is the author of the best-selling memoir, Donahue: My Own Story and The Human Animal. A native of Cleveland and the father of five and grandfather of two, Donahue is married to award-winning actress, author and activist Marlo Thomas. They live in New York.