A tribute to Jim Lehrer

One of my main sources for televised news is the PBS Newshour. It is an even-handed news report, that offers expert commentary in a civilized way. This approach traces itself to initial and long-time host, Jim Lehrer, who died on Thursday. He began the show with Robert MacNeil, primarily covering the Watergate impeachment hearings. It is apropos he died during the current impeachment trial.

From a CBS News report, the following is an excerpt about Lehrer.

“Over a career that spanned 50 years, Lehrer moderated a total of 12 presidential debates, more than anyone in history, including all the ones held in 1996 and 2000. He also wrote 20 novels, three memoirs and several plays and earned dozens of journalism awards and honorary degrees. Former President Clinton bestowed the National Humanities Medal on Lehrer in 1999. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected him a fellow and, alongside Robert MacNeil, Lehrer was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.

Mr. Clinton honored Lehrer in a tweet on Thursday, writing ‘I liked and admired Jim Lehrer. He believed news is a public good, not a commodity. And he was always completely on the level in reporting, interviewing, and moderating debates. His life was a gift that strengthened our democracy.'”

Key themes of the news he broadcast included rules like:
– don’t make the story about you
– keep news clearly separated from editorial opinion
– assume there is more than one side to a story
– respect those being interviewed and covered
– ask simple questions and let the interviewee provide the answers
– guests must be civil to each other and the hosts and vice-versa

To many do not follow these simple rules. Last month, he noted the challenge that news broadcasts have now. In a news world of division, it is difficult to report when the news includes lying, so as to avoid being called divisive. He said we are not there yet. But, we must try.

Join me in honoring an honest and informed newscaster. David Brooks said tonight, “Jim had a moral ecology” which is similar to what MacNeil said saying “Jim had a moral intelligence.” He sought the truth and did it with a civil demeanor. Well done, Jim Lehrer.

11 thoughts on “A tribute to Jim Lehrer

  1. Hello Keith. It is a sad state we are in when opinion pushing now counts as impartial journalism, and news reporting is judged not on its accuracy but on which political party it supports. A free press is necessary for a democracy, and yet when news needed to start showing a profit for companies it became as much a destructive force as a blessing. I admire the days when the news departments were free from such base capitalism and we got just the facts without the need for hyperbole with the effect of pushing a talking point of the political parties. Have you had a chance to listen to the C-Span callers during the impeachment trial breaks? Rather telling how this is playing out on Fox and in the cult of tRump. Best wishes. Hugs

    • Scottie, by not shooting straight with people biassd news sources do far more harm. If there viewers only realized how they are being led by the nose to heed a message that agrees with they are already feel. Conservative pundit David Brooks said tonight the GOP Senators know Trump is guilty, but have to go along with that narrative.!

      At some point, honor, integrity, morality, empathy et al, must surface. I think the message must be civil, but straightforward. We know you know, so what are you going to do about. Truth be told, Fox is doing a disservice to their country and party. Keith

      • Hello Keith. Iagree. Speaking of State Propaganda TV, do you think because the owners are foreign nationals there is anything we can do about their daily interference with reality and their war on truth? When they report falsehoods about politics is it anyway election interference, or maybe when supporting tRump it is an illegal campaign contribution? Hugs

      • Scottie, interesting proposition. Murdoch has a global obfuscation business, so stopping that engine will be hard. I think their not playing the audio of the Senate hearings was an extemely poor move. It shows quite clearly, getting at the truth is not their focus. Firing Shepard Smith also was a poor move. Keith

  2. I fear for our country, our world. We’re losing our pillars, our moral compasses. Very few men or women seem to have what it takes to stand firm against tyranny and slander. I shared this on my Twitter feed.

    • Linda, thanks for the share. We must do better and our better angels must be present and advocate. I do think that negative news travel so quickly, that it dwarfs the many positive stories that greatly outnumber the negative. Sadly, too many politicians have forgotten why they are there, so they do not represent our better angels. Yet, we must try to make them more aware. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: Having watched PBS Newshour for years, I noticed guests that are less than civilized in their comments tend not to get invited back. On other talk shows, the guests talk over each other and few are listening. That is not a discussion. That is a contest. One other thing I have noticed is when you see and hear more learned opinions, it is easier to spot people who are blowing smoke or leaning in with a smug or overbearing quality rather than argue with facts.People who do not answer the question asked are a tell-tale sign, for example.

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