Saluting Jim Lehrer: US National Treasure?


Jim Lehrer Steve Clemons.jpg
The one real news and public policy commentary show that Jon Stewart has never been able to credibly spoof is the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. That show whether in its current form or as McNeil/Lehrer News Hour — or just as “The NewsHour” as it is now increasingly known is and has been one of the best on television — for decades.
Jim Lehrer, of whom I am an enormous fan, announced to his team by email at 9:48 this morning that he is stepping down.
Here was his note:

From: Jim Lehrer
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 9:48 AM
To: Everyone
Subject: PBSNH_JLannouncement_May2011FINAL (2).doc

Good morning. Here is the “official” press release [pdf here] about my future plans that is going out today. The words, as (hopefully) always, speak for themselves. I will also say something at the end of the program tonight.
All I would add now to you is basically two more words–thank you.
Thank you for what each of you has done to get us from December 2009 and before to this point in our professional lives together. We have created and nourished something that matters and that will last forever whether I am there–physically–every day or not.
Rest assured I will always be there. Always. Onward! Jim

This is the short and to the point, waste no words, firm but caring Jim Lehrer.
I have great respect for the entire team at PBS NewsHour and think that the show ought to be designated some sort of status as a US National Treasure — along the lines that Japan has designated people and institutions as national treasures. Standards for serious journalism there will continue to set the standard in the business.
But I just wanted to note that I am one who will miss Lehrer’s constant, sensible stewardship.
Let’s hope he still does a presidential debate now and then.
— Steve Clemons

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7 comments on “Saluting Jim Lehrer: US National Treasure?

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    When Rather was castrated because of his honest presentation of Bush’s service history, the handwriting on the wall could not have been more evident.
    I have seen nothing from Lehrer that seems to challenge the modern day role of our media in advancing the narrative, and the agenda, of corporations and partisan interests.
    If Lehrer REALLY offered us anything other than the scripted garbage that has become standard fare, he’d be standing on the sidelines with Helen Thomas and Dan Rather, wearing his dunce cap. Parallel to the hoops Steve must jump through to open the doors of Washington DC, our members of the “Fourth Estate” have their own hoops that must be negotiated if they want to be allowed to fill the minds of the masses with propaganda, crap, and trivia.
    If Lehrer deserved kudos, he wouldn’t have retired, he would have been fired and demonized, long ago.
    One hopes, in stepping down, that he is in some way motivated by a refusal to continue to participate in an industry that has so completely sold itself out and neglected its responsibility to hold our government and our corporate sector to account.
    Maybe, like Thomas, he will use his newfound freedom to pull out the stops, and finally mouth some truths.
    Or, not.


  2. DonS says:

    Well, I’m of two minds about Lehrer.
    But what’s really sad is that if he represents the top of the heap, the underlying stinking pile of what passes for interviews, journalism, reporting, etc. is quite evident. It’s like the fourth estate in the US has been co-opted into the establishment instead of doing critique and questioning the establishment. Actually I’ll state that definitively. Make that a definite.


  3. bob h says:

    Jim was very civil and polite, but also very tough. You didn’t get away with much with him. And he was vastly more intelligent than the typical TV newsperson.


  4. brigid says:

    You gotta be kidding, Steve. Steve Lehrer has been indistinguishable from all the other talking heads in the beltway media, recycling the same pablum day after day, week after week. Just because it’s PBS doesn’t mean it’s any deeper or has any more integrity.


  5. jonst says:

    Perfect model for what was right in American journalism….and how it became utterly corrupted by its stunning lack of curiosity. A mind, and program, that once covered the gambit from A-Z, would up covering it from L-P, without ever seeing what it had done.
    And elite; striving, aggressively, toward smallness of mind and mediocrity. That is what Lehrer came to represent. And that is what sent McNeil off into an honorable exile.
    It came to be a journalistic representation of arteries hardening.


  6. Kathleen says:

    Lehrer is definitely a treasure as well as PBS. Have spent a great deal of time in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the VA hospital the last three and a half years. WWII Vet, retired teamster father’s health fading. Anyway have spent many hours talking with older Vets, old union members etc. When I ask them about the news and which news programs they watch. Most prefer Lehrer and PBS. One retired upper level union fella as well as a WWII Vet responded when I mentioned Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow etc news programs he said “those are not news programs those are people just spouting opinions”
    He as well as many of our other seniors who grew up listening to Walter Conkite etc are Lehrer junkies.
    another important person leaving the Obama administration
    George Mitchell Plans To Resign: AP Sources
    One more nail in the coffin of the non existent peace process.
    Over at Mondoweiss. Folks should check out
    63 years of the Nakba
    by Adam Horowitz on May 12, 2011


  7. JohnH says:

    I used to watch the NewsHour but stopped during the rabid jingoism of the invasion of Iraq. Same for NPR. For me, public broadcasting’s worldview was virtually indistinguishable from CNN or the major broadcast outlets.
    Neither the NewsHour nor NPR provide a truly independent picture of current events. Instead, they provide a more in-depth articulation of the dominant, official narrative.
    Sadly, BBC and now Al-Jazeera have joined the ranks of official media, parroting the official line.
    With internet news now widely available, it’s better to check out alternative sites. Besides, you can digest the news much faster by reading it. So why waste your time watching or listening to different flavors of the official regurgitation?


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