I always thought, as extremely unlikely as it may seem, if I became famous enough and the world wanted to know about my life (cough, cough), there would be only one person I would want to sit with for an interview, and it would be Jim Lehrer.
I watched his evening PBS news presentations for almost his entire career, save for the last few years when he was in an emeritus role. He had a stunningly unique ability to ask astute questions while remaining completely fair-minded, unemotional and highly courteous no matter the guest or their political or social agenda. A testimony to his impartiality, in his role as moderator of 12 presidential debates, his selection would be endorsed from both sides of the aisle.
At the time, I felt the PBS News Hour compared favorably to other daily news shows, while offering a more intelligent, sober, and mature format. Unfortunately, except for his partner Robin MacNeil, the bar of excellence he set was and remains a difficult one for the media at large to emulate, indeed.
Like his father and older brother, he served as a U.S. Marine, and in 2006 was asked to speak at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia, on the 231st anniversary of the Corps. A video of his powerful speech is easily found on the web.
His recent passing has brought forth an impressive bio and many well-deserved accolades and the virtual world will allow us to re-experience his great service to us as a noble journalist; however, I can think of no greater parting gift for the country he loved than his guidelines for journalism; if we are lucky, perhaps they just might be better observed today and in the future
- 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.
- And, finally, I am not in the entertainment business.
Due to his strict nonpartisan approach, I never thought of him as a liberal (PBS) or conservative (U.S. Marine). I thought of him only as a great American.
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