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Recalling The Reasons We Loved Jim Lehrer

January 23, 2020

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Jim Lehrer, the retired PBS anchorman who for 36 years gave public television viewers a substantive alternative to network evening news programs with in-depth reporting, interviews, and analysis of world and national affairs has died.  He was 85.  And as I have stated before on this blog, he is a national treasure.

When I was a teenager dinner would be over in our Hancock home, the evening news and the local news would have come to an end.   It would be 6:30 P.M.  Time to change the channel (by walking to the set and manually turning the dial) to Wisconsin Public Television for the half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report.  The program devoted itself to one news story each night.  It might be the reason for a major jet crash or diving into the religious turmoil in the Middle East.  The show was informative and so well done with insight and professionalism.  And I learned so much.  It piqued my interest to want to know even more.

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Over the years this blog has mentioned Lehrer on many occasions.  Instead of writing new comments about the man I will let what was posted over time be my way of honoring this reporter which meant so much to so many in our country.

From September 2008.

It is also important to note that the moderator last night, Jim Lehrer, was superb!  He is a national treasure, and PBS can be proud again of sending one of their best to handle the first presidential debate

From October 2012.

There are many respected journalists who could moderate the presidential debates, but few possess the heft and gravitas of Jim Lehrer.  As such, it is appropriate that Lehrer be the moderator of the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.  It can be easily argued that the first debate is always the most important one.

For decades Lehrer has proven to be media savvy, intellectually curious, and objective about the issues and politicians he interacts with.  There are few faces in broadcast journalism that carry as much credibility as Lehrer does.

From October 2012

I have been watching Jim Lehrer on PBS from the time I was in high school, when the program that is now the NewsHour was only 30-minutes, and was co-anchored with Robert MacNeil.  I can say with all honesty I absolutely love Jim Lehrer, and have the utmost respect for his journalistic capabilities and insight.

I understand many wish some of those things I find so remarkable about Lehrer would have been more on display during the debate.

I would argue for the most part they were.

Many pundits had felt Leherer would demand specifics, and make the debate as informative as possible.  But if one looks at the topics covered, and the amount of facts and figures thrown out from each candidate it is hard to argue that the debate was not substantive.

Many feel the best debate is where the moderator is more a potted plant on the stage, and not a main player.  I am sure Lehrer was intending to be more demanding in getting more topics covered, and more specifics presented for the viewers.

But with the abrasive way Romney ran over the rules and the moderator it is hard to fault Lehrer to the extent many are doing this morning.

Placing blame this morning on Jim Lehrer is not fair.  He is not the person who was supposed to take the fight to Mitt Romney.

In other words, Lehrer was always a professional newsman and reporter.  He summed up his views about his profession in a way that makes us all know there was a solid hand on the steering wheel when he was in the anchor chair.

I have an old-fashioned view that news is not a commodity,” Mr. Lehrer told The American Journalism Review in 2001. “News is information that’s required in a democratic society, and Thomas Jefferson said a democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry. That sounds corny, but I don’t care whether it sounds corny or not. It’s the truth.

Godspeed to one of our nation’s best reporters.

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