Phil Donahue

Phil Donahue
Phil Donahue | Photo: Creative Commons

Phillip John Donahue was born in Cleveland, Ohio on December 21, 1935. This American TV personality and journalist pioneered the issue-based daytime television talk show. Donahue’s famous talk show that aired from 1967 to 1996 won him 9 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Host (1977 to 1980, 1982 to 1983, 1985 to 1986, 1988).

Though Phil Donahue earned a degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame back in 1957, it was his incomparable work experience at WNDU-TV station while studying that formed his career. For a time, he was a substitute announcer at a TV and radio station in Cleveland before he got a job as the news director of a radio station in 1958 in Adrian, Michigan. This enabled him to work as a WHIO TV reporter the following year in Dayton, Ohio. Because of his sensitive technique in interviewing, Donahue gained quite a reputation. Four years later, he became the host of Conversation Piece—a call-in radio show. In just a few years, he also became an evening news co-anchor and a host of a TV business talk show.

Then in 1967, WLWD gave him The Phil Donahue Show, which was a morning interview show that presents in front of a live studio audience. The show’s format required one issue and one guest per episode. Madalyn Murray O’Hair—a combative and aggravating atheist activist—was the show’s guest during the pilot episode. The pilot certainly engaged the public.

Donahue moved the show to Chicago from Dayton in 1974. It was aired as Donahue on WGN. He gained great admiration because of his unique and contentious interview style. Donahue was one of the first shows to focus on and discuss controversial topics on a national level. His dedication to his craft earned him a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award in 1996.

George Burns, 93, on The Donahue Show, 1988

Elton John, 33, on Donahue, Oct. 15, 1980

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