Accolades galore for Jim Lehrer as he opts to exit 'PBS NewsHour'
Veteran newsman Jim Lehrer will relinquish the anchor's chair at 'PBS NewsHour' on June 6. Media analysts credit him for the newscast's 'fact-based,' 'well-reasoned,' and 'civilized' approach.
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The PBS newscast "is one of the jewels in the crown of television journalism,” agrees Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York. “It was one of my favorite places to appear as a guest because it is so civilized and reasonable.”Skip to next paragraph
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Last month, the National Press Club bestowed a career achievement award on Lehrer. “Amid the cacophony of a sometimes shrill media landscape, he has remained the true voice of reason, balance, and fairness,” said president Mark Hamrick in a statement.
The tone of moderation and measured reasonableness at "NewsHour" may be challenged as PBS moves to secure the program's future in an increasingly insecure financial media landscape flooded with competitors, says Mr. Thompson.
“PBS has to be thinking about how to entice a younger generation to watch its programs,” he says. Whether that means the network will resort to “jazzing up the show" – with anything from younger faces, more entertainment-oriented content, or snappier graphics, as cable and broadcast networks have done – remains to be seen. PBS does not have the same pressure to garner the kind of Nielsen ratings that cable and broadcast networks do, but “they still have to think about cultivating their audience for the future,” Thompson says.
Politicians and policymakers have long regarded the hour-long newscast as the place to air serious issues, says political strategist David Johnson. “Inside the Washington Beltway, if you wanted to get your whole point of view out without being interrupted or harangued," he says, “this was where you went.”
Lehrer’s announcement Thursday included an affirmation of the show’s commitment to moderation and seriousness of purpose. “I have been laboring in the glories of daily journalism for 52 years ... 36 of them here at the 'NewsHour' and its earlier incarnations ... and there comes a time to step aside from the daily process, and that time has arrived," he said in a statement.
That will be a tough row to hoe in the increasingly competitive and combative media landscape, says Mr. Johnson.