They Don’t Seem to Make Many Class Act Newscasters Like Jim Lehrer Any More

“There are very few really stark black and white stories.”

The Veteran PBS Journalist Died This January 23rd at age 85 – R.I.P.

A Brief Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

January 24th, 2020 at Niagara At Large

Jim Lehrer, the consummate journalist, the way he looked during the Watergate years in the 1970s. He was often quoted saying that he never wanted the story to be about him – something you don’t hear from many ‘celebrity news show hosts’ today.

Long before the  relentless parade of circus barkers we have posing as journalists and polluting the cable networks and airwaves today, there were towering figures in broadcast news like American anchors Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor, and Canada’s own Barbara Frum and Peter Gzowski.

And there was one of the very first pioneers of news on public television, Jim Lehrer.

Jim Lehrer, who died this January 22nd at age 85, also grew to prominence in his field when there was still a generally agreed to set of facts, and long before politicians and others frightened by the truth and opposed to serious scrutiny began branding  journalists as “enemies of the people” and purveyors of “fake news.”

I first remember Jim Lehrer on a PBS television station – WNED – broadcasting out of Buffalo, New York, when I just still a kid living at home where I grew up in Welland and he and Canadian-born news journalist Robert MacNeil were, in the mid-1970s, doing wall-to-wall coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings that eventually led to the impeachment of then-U.S. president Richard Nixon.

A television in the back porch of our home was on all summer during those hearings, and there was Lehrer and MacNeil, long before the time of CNN-style, 24/7 cable news, at their posts almost every waking hour, bringing real-time updates on the testimony that would lead to Nixon’s downfall to people across the United States, Canada and other the world.

Jim Lehrer, left, with long-time PBS News co-host Robert MacNeil

The pair worked together so well on the Watergate story that PBS put together a nightly news hour called the MacNeil/Lehrer Report (still on as the PBS News Hour hosted by Judy Woodruff), that remains a highly-respected, award-winning  model for what a broadcast news program can be at its best.

Unfortunately, we’ve gone all the way from the Watergate hearings, where some justice was found, to what is looking like it is going to be the shame of an “impeachment trial” now going on, where Moscow Mitch and company will get their reality show president “exonerated” on behalf of their masters in the Kremlin.

We have gone from news programs like the MacNeil/Lehrer Report being primary sources of news for people to a majority of people now getting whatever passes for news on Facebook and Twitter. – all while democracies and the institutions, including newspapers and broadcast news programs, needed to make a democracy healthy and robust, are in danger of going to hell in a hand basket.

It is reported that Jim Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep,” and I hope that is the way this good person passed on.

It is impossible to believe, however, that in his final years, he felt very well about what he saw going down around him.

When I first heard about Jim Lehrer’s death this January 23rd on CBC, I could only say; ‘How sad. There is another one of the last great broadcast journalists gone.’

“In my own view, there is a need for, and a demonstrated need for more journalism now than there ever has been.” – Jim Lehrer

To watch current PBS News Hour host Judy Woodroff, one of Jim Lehrer’s long-time colleagues, say a few nice words about him this January 23rd, click on the screen below –

For a  broadcast tribute to Jim Lehrer, click on –

 

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“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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