Jim Lehrer, PBS NewsHour Founder and TV Anchor, Dead at 85

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Jim Lehrer, the co-founder of PBS NewsHour and that show's anchor for nearly four decades prior to his retirement in 2011, died on Thursday.

He was 85 years old.

Jim Lehrer

The tragic piece of news was confirmed by current NewsHour anchor/managing editor Judy Woodruff, reported the passing on the broadcast’s website.

“I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” Woodruff said in a statement, adding:

“I’ve looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way.”

Lehrer and Robert MacNeil started NewsHour in 1975 -- and the late journalist would go on to anchor the nightly news report for the next 36 years.

Jim Lehrer Pic

A Dallas native, Lehrer moved to Washington in the early 1970s and eventually grew into the public affairs coordinator at PBS, along with a correspondent for the National Public Affairs Center for Television.

It was there that he met MacNeil before collaborating with him to begin one of the most esteemed partnerships in broadcast journalism history.

The two became known for not just reporting on the Watergate proceedings in 1973... but also offering analysis that helped viewers untangle the complicated testimonies.

Such extensive coverage birthed The Robert MacNeil Report, which then became The MacNeil/Lehrer Report.

Jim Lehrer Image

The program expanded to an hour in 1983, which is when it became known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

Lehrer took over the broadcast, under the new name The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, when MacNeil retired in 1995.

In 2009, the show’s name changed to PBS NewsHour as Lehrer considered retirement, and he left the program as a regular contributor in June 2011 after approximately 8,000 broadcasts.

“I’ve always seen this as a preserve of serious news,” Lehrer, looking back on his nearly four decades years behind the NewsHour desk, told The Washington Post.

lehrer

He added at the time:

“It’s not magic, and it’s not saintly. We’ve been doing it for 36 years, and we’ll continue doing it. Others won’t. That’s their problem.”

Said MacNeil upon Lehrer's retirement:

“Jim has been able to bequeath the most precious commodity in journalism, the enormous trust and credibility he has inspired over the years. … It starts with fairness. Jim’s sense of fairness is distilled in the personal guidelines he works by as a journalist.”

Jim Lehrer Snapshot

In addition to interviewing key world figures over the years, Lehrer moderated several American presidential debates.

He is survived by his wife, Kate, three daughters and several grandchildren.

May Jim Lehrer rest in peace.

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