Firing Line was an American public affairs show founded and hosted by conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., founder and publisher of National Review magazine. Its 1,504 episodes over 33 years made Firing Line the longest-running public affairs show in television history with a single host. The erudite program, which featured many of the most prominent intellectuals and public figures in the United States, won an Emmy Award in 1969.
Reflecting Buckley's talents and preferences, the exchange of views was almost always polite, and the guests were given time to answer questions at length, slowing the pace of the program. "The show was devoted to a leisurely examination of issues and ideas at an extremely high level", according to Jeff Greenfield, who frequently appeared as an examiner. John Kenneth Galbraith said of the program, "Firing Line is one of the rare occasions when you have a chance to correct the errors of the man who's interrogating you."
The show might be compared in politeness and style of discourse to other national public interview shows, specifically those hosted by Charlie Rose or Terry Gross, but Buckley was clearly interested in debate. In a 1999 Salon.com article, The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol summarized Buckley's approach to the show: "Buckley really believes that in order to convince, you have to debate and not just preach, which of course means risking the possibility that someone will beat you in debate."
Ended December 15, 1999
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