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'PBS NewsHour' Lead Anchor Jim Lehrer Dies At 85

Gettyimages | Gail Oskin
By Emily Reily

Lehrer Covered the News Fairly

Jim Lehrer, former anchor of "PBS News Hour," has died at 85.

According to PBS, Lehrer died on Thursday “peacefully in his sleep at home."

PBS President Paula Kerger released a statement.

“On behalf of all of us at PBS, we are deeply saddened to learn of Jim Lehrer’s passing.

From co-creating the groundbreaking MacNeil/Lehrer Report to skillfully moderating many presidential debates, Jim exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career. A true giant in news and public affairs, he leaves behind an incredible legacy that serves as an inspiration to us all. He will be missed.”

'Good Evening, I'm Jim Lehrer'

Each night, for 36 years, viewers of "PBS NewsHour" would hear Lehrer's unadorned, straight message to the public: “Good evening, I’m Jim Lehrer.”

Originally from Dallas, Lehrer wrote for the Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times-Herald in the early- to mid- '60s, and covered the assassination of President Kennedy 1963. Lehrer also moderated 12 presidential debates.

Judy Woodruff, the current anchor of PBS NewsHour, also released a statement about Lehrer. Woodruff succeeded Lehrer after his retirement in 2011.

“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. 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.”

'It's Not About Us'

Gettyimages | Cynthia Johnson

Lehrer had a storied career in journalism. Those who watched his nightly broadcast knew they'd get their news without bias.

One of his often-used statements, a mantra many journalists likely live by, was "It's not about us."

Jim's Rules Are Good Rules


Along with journalist Robert MacNeil, they created the "MacNeil-Lehrer style of journalism," which is still the groundwork for today's reporting.

In PBS' In Memoriam for Lehrer, they published a list called "Jim Lehrer's Rules" detailing the code for journalists to live by.

Among them:

"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.

Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should be allowed to attack another anonymously."

He Saw What Many Of Us Didn't


Lehrer once spoke about covering Kennedy's assassination:

“What I took away and have taken away — and it still overrides everything that I have done in journalism since — what the Kennedy assassination did for me was forever keep me aware of the fragility of everything, that, on any given moment, something could happen. I mean, my God, if they could shoot the president–”

And as PBS writes, Lehrer did his job to the utmost level of excellence.

"Night after night, Jim led by example that being yourself — journalist, writer, family man, citizen — can be a high calling.

As an anchor of several iterations of the NewsHour, Jim reported the news with a clear sense of purpose and integrity– even as the world of media changed around him."

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