Lester Crystal, President of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, to retire in August 2010

(Arlington, VA) May 20, 2010 – Lester Crystal will retire as President of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions on August 31, 2010.  Crystal, whose distinguished career in broadcast journalism spans 53 years, will continue to serve as Senior Advisor to the company through the end of the year.

Hired in 1983 to lead the transition from the half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report to the debut of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, Crystal was instrumental in creating the nation’s first hour-long evening newscast.  In 2005 he moved to his current position as president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.

In a statement to staff, company founders Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer said “the NewsHourwould never have been launched and sustained as successfully as it has been, and become the institution in the nation’s journalism that it has, without Les.”  

Formerly President of NBC News and Executive Producer of the NBC Nightly News, Crystal came to MacNeil/Lehrer Productions after 20 years with NBC news.  

Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor and Anchor of the PBS NewsHour, credits Crystal with bringing “journalistic standards, a total grasp of television as a news medium, and superb managerial skills to public television.”  During his tenure, the program won numerous awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award and multiple Emmy Awards. 

As President of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, Crystal heads corporate and foundation funding for the NewsHour, as well as the development of documentary programs and projects, such as Muslims in AmericaBetty Ford: The Real DealAmong the Righteous and the Miller Center National Discussion and Debate Series. Under Crystal’s direction over the past five years, foundation support for the NewsHour has tripled to more than $7 million annually.

“It has been a privilege to be part of an organization with uncompromising high standards and to work with so many people who value those standards and are dedicated to the journalism profession,” said Crystal.  “Together we have covered a quarter century of important events, helping our audience understand them better and providing them with civil and meaningful discussions of the issues.”

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, Crystal earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and began his broadcasting career in 1957 as a news writer for KDAL radio and television in Duluth.

Additional Career Highlights

Produced convention and election night coverage for 8 national elections from 1976 – 2004 for both NBC and PBS.

Accompanied President Nixon on his historic 1972 visit to China as Chief Producer of European News for NBC.

Oversaw the sizable expansion of news feeds from the NBC network to affiliated stations as Vice President Affiliate News.

In reflecting on his career, Les said “I am fortunate to have been a part of television news during a period of many historic events as well as sweeping changes to the media industry.  I am very proud of my contributions to the launch of the Newshour as the country’s first hour-long daily television news broadcast and its continued success as a mainstay of serious journalism.  I look forward to new projects and spending more time with my family.”  Crystal and his wife Toby have three children and live in Washington D.C. and Scarsdale, New York.

About MacNeil/Lehrer Productions
MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (MLP) produces PBS Newshour as well as other programs for public, commercial and cable television.  MLP also produces coverage of national political conventions, national elections, the State of the Union address and other major events for PBS.  Other recent television programs produced by MLP include:  the Miller Center National Discussion and Debate Series, a series of moderated debates on issues of national importance sponsored by the University of Virginia; Debating our Destiny, a critically acclaimed two part series during which Jim Lehrer interviews former presidential and vice-presidential candidates about their debate triumphs and failures; Generation Next, Judy Woodruff’s travels across the country to explore the unique perspectives of Americans ages 16 – 25; the award-winning Do You Speak American?, Robert MacNeil’s cross country trek to discover why American’s speak the way we do; The First Lady: Public Expectations, Private Lives, a look at the expectations of the role of the modern first lady; as well as Betty Ford: The Real Deal and LadyBird, documentary profiles of former First Ladies LadyBird Johnson and Betty Ford.  MLP is also the leading force behind the By the People: America in the World civic engagement project.

About PBS Newshour
PBS NEWSHOUR is seen five nights a week on more than 315 PBS stations across the country and is also available online, via public radio in select markets and via podcast. The program is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, in association with WETA Washington, DC, and THIRTEEN in New York. Major corporate funding for The NewsHour is provided by Chevron, Bank of America and Intel, with additional support from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.