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Open Mind Host Draws from Nearly 50 Years of Interviews at the TC Booktalk


Richard D. Heffner

Richard D. Heffner

There aren't many influential people that Richard D. Heffner hasn't interviewed on the Public Television Series "The Open Mind," which he began in 1956 and continues to produce and host. In his latest book, Heffner draws on nearly 50 years of those broadcast conversations, as well as his own thoughtful perspective on the last half-century.

Heffner, who moderates many TC BookTalks, will be answering questions from the other side of the podium about his latest book, A Conversational History of Modern America (Carrol and Graf), on December 3rd. He will discuss the interviews that are compiled in his book with major figures such as Malcom X, Donald Rumsfeld, Gloria Steinem, Norman Mailer, Robert Caro to Jonas Salk.

Using the template established in his book Conversations with Elie Wiesel, which is based on the two dozen programs he and Wiesel have done together, Heffner has woven decades of provocative and thoughtful discussions with major figures into a unique and authoritative mosaic exploring the major issues of our time in this book.

Heffner, who is University Professor of Communications and Public Policy at Rutgers University, follows his love of education through his life and career. His belief that the media can be used for educational purposes is why he put Channel 13 on the air in 1962. "Broadcast journalism is a means of enlarging the classroom," he said.

The Internet expands the classroom even further. To make it easier to access the collection of interviews from "The Open Mind," Heffner is working on "The Open Mind" Internet Archive: Presently the site has more than 60 programs from the series on-line, searchable in video and print format, and downloadable. "The Open Mind" on-line will eventually have the complete body of "The Open Mind" programs. Anyone-teachers, students or researchers-can access this historical information.

Heffner is no stranger to TC. He first came to the College when he was 13 years old with a friend of the family to listen to George Counts (a TC professor from 1927-1955) speak. He returned years later to get his bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia University.

Named one of Newsweek Magazine's "Cultural Elite," he was identified by Entertainment Weekly as one of the most powerful people in American entertainment during the 20 years he served as Chair of Hollywood's controversial film rating system. He was also Founding General Manager of New York's key public television station, Channel 13 WNET.

He is the author of the best selling A Documentary History of the United States and a contributor to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. Heffner holds honorary doctorates from the State University of New York and from Long Island University. He and his wife, psychotherapist Elaine Heffner, divide their time between New York and California.

The BookTalk, which will be moderated by TC President Arthur Levine, will take place on December 3rd in the Milbank Chapel from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. A reception and book signing will follow at the President's house. For more information, call 212-678-3215 or e-mail

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