Jim Lehrer Unveils Plans for the ‘PBS NewsHour’
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JIM LEHRER: Linda Winslow and I are delighted to be here with you [PBS President Paula Kerger], and with all, to make a few announcements — maybe, in our family world of public television, even make some news.
But let me first say the news is not — repeat not — about my leaving the NewsHour.
It is true that many months ago I began to think about such an awful thing. But then, as you all know, a year ago — almost to the week — I had an aortic valve replaced with that of an anonymous but delightful animal known as the pig.
The surgeon and the cardiologist involved in that operation told me, “If it works, Jim, you will come away feeling and acting ten years younger.”
Well, the news is whether it’s seen as good news or bad news depends on the particular news consumer, so to speak, that’s exactly what happened.
The truth is that sometimes I think it took off more than ten.
No, the news today has to do with the future of the NewsHour — with me, not without me.
And it is a future that, with a little luck and a lot of hard thinking and hard work by all of us, will be even more glorious and important than our past and present have been.
I believe — we believe — we have the opportunity, and the obligation, to have more than a second wind, but, to be specific, a fifth wind.
Our first was behind the Robert MacNeil Report, then came the MacNeil-Lehrer Report, the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, the present NewsHour — and, now, a new fifth incarnation. Behind a fifth wind of what Robin MacNeil and his many helpers began nearly 35 years ago.
The wind this time has been driven by a variety factors that happened to come together at the same time:
– those early thoughts about a Lehrer-less NewsHour
– a forced need to take a look at our budget. How we spend our money. How and where we could do some trimming and reorganizing
– a dramatic change in the world of serious journalism generally — newspapers failing and cutting back, all forms of electronic and Internet media changing and exploding. Forcing us to realize that rather than to fight this we had not only to be part of the new world order, we had to do our best to take a leadership role.
– and a dramatic change in the immediate news landscape — the coming of a new president at a time of huge crises with the economy here and everywhere, security here and everywhere
So, our own real world of the NewsHour — and of journalism and the real world world — led Linda and me to say to each other and eventually to others, we need to seize the opportunities and meet our obligations to follow the fifth wind: to examine everything we do and the way we do it and be prepared to change everything, but our commitment to serious journalism, MacNeil-Lehrer kind of journalism.
We really are the fortunate ones in the current tumultuous atmosphere of journalism, when we wake up in the morning we only have to ask ourselves: What is the news and how we will cover it?
Never: Who are we? Why we are here? And what we do?
That is the way it has been for 35 years and the way it will be forever.
And for the NewsHour, there will always be a forever.
It’s fifth incarnation to begin in mid-September with a new and glorious title: The PBS NewsHour.