Friday, December 04, 2009

Why I watch the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

The Newshour program with Jim Lehrer is about to undergo a fifth name-change since it's creation in 1975.

On Monday the program will become the PBS Newshour. The plan is to work more with local Public Television stations and integrate more with the Internet. Other than that, while there will be some changes to the format there doesn't appear to be any drastic changes and the new program will retain the same lineup of journalists who have been filing reports on the show for years and one new correspondant — Hari Sreenivasan.

I have seen no definite word on whether lead anchor Jim Lehrer will be leaving the show in the foreseeable future. I certainly hope not. I really do appreciate his style of honest, un-opinionated coverage and his dispassionate demeanor.

Speaking of style, on Friday night's program at the end of the name-change segment, Mr. Lehrer described the guidelines that are a part of the "MacNeil-Lehrer" journalism that has been the heart of the show for well over two decades now: 
  • Do nothing I cannot defend.
  • Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
  • Assume there is at least one other side, or version to every story.
  • Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.
  • Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
  • Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
  • Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.
  • Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions.
  • No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
  • I am not in the entertainment business.
Brilliant! The show represents quality journalism, an invaluable resource today, which puts mainstream media coverage and the partisan infotainment of MSNBC and FoxNews to shame.

This style of journalism should be required study for anyone pursuing a journalism major.

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