“Journalism is caring where the fire-engines are going.”
Jim Lehrer – novelist, playwright, and most noted..veteran news journalist, TV anchor, editor whose news career in journalism spanned over 50 years. Also, the co-founder of PBS Newshour TV program, and frequent presidential debate moderator. He won many awards, and to me, a prime example of journalism of how it’s meant in pure form, without the punditry and theatrics. He passed away on January 23, 2020 at age 85.
But one important page of note, are Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour guidelines in 2009, as a standard for his show, and to inspire others who may follow:
I practice journalism in accordance with the following guidelines:
• Do nothing I cannot defend.
• Do not distort, lie, slant or hype.
• Do not falsify facts or make up quotes.
• 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 caring and good a person as I am.
• Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
• Assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
• Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the
story mandates otherwise.
• Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and
clearly label it as such.
• Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and
monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another
• Do not broadcast profanity or the end result of violence unless it is an
integral and necessary part of the story and/or crucial to its understanding.
• Acknowledge that objectivity may be impossible but fairness never is.
• Journalists who are reckless with facts and reputations should be
disciplined by their employers.
• My viewers have a right to know what principles guide my work and the
process I use in their practice.
• I am not in the entertainment business.
Moving forward, that should be the legacy unforgotten, and looked at for many generations ahead in professional news journalism overall.
– Orion T
A brilliant piece indeed. Jim Lehrer owes us an incisive biography that chronicles his 5 decades of journalism practice. For holding on to those listed lofty values must have been a big one!