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The NewsHour family remembers Jim Lehrer

As we continue to grieve the loss of our co-founder and former anchor, Jim Lehrer, we close with the voices of our staff, past and present, and NewsHour family. Jim touched so many lives and leaves an indelible imprint on our hearts -- and as this week’s outpouring shows, on those of many of our viewers, too.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we continue to grieve the loss of our co-founder and former anchor Jim Lehrer, we want to close tonight with the voices of our own staff and "NewsHour" family.

    We know he touched so many lives, and the outpouring from you, our viewers, has also touched us all.

    For those of us lucky enough to know Jim personally, he leaves an indelible imprint on our hearts.

  • Morgan Till, Foreign Affairs Senior Producer:

    He cared about us, he cared about the viewers, and he cared about the news. And all of those things together are a rare commodity in this day and age.

  • Mary Jo Brooks, Former Producer:

    It's been 28 years since I wrote news summary copy for Jim Lehrer, and still, every single time I write a sentence, I still have his voice in my head: Is it correct, is it fair, and are you using as few words as possible?

  • Diane Lincoln, Producer:

    I remember I would go down to the control room and watch the stories that I had produced as they aired.

    And one of the screens up on the wall showed Jim Lehrer sitting at the anchor's desk. And he would watch the pieces as they aired. And, sometimes, he would look disinterested, which wasn't good. But, sometimes, he would get really interested, and he would lean forward and smile. And that was always the goal.

  • Lorna Baldwin, Producer:

    Jim was like your best, but hardest teacher, the one you wanted to do your best work for.

    He held you to very high standards, and he let you know when you didn't get it right. But, when you did get it right, he also let you know. And he made sure that others knew as well.

    Leah Clapman, Founder, "PBS NewsHour" Student Reporting Labs: Jim Lehrer will always represent for our students the best of journalism. He will always be the guiding light for the students doing work that is accurate, that is fair, and has integrity above all.

  • Terence Smith, Former Media Correspondent:

    Integrity was the key word, and it still is. That was Jim's gift to all of us, and he should be remembered for it.

  • Amna Nawaz, National Correspondent:

    Watching Jim as a kid growing up, you knew that you were watching the standard. It was what journalism can be and what it should be.

    You saw that you could be skeptical, but civil. You could be tough, but you could be fair. And all of those things are still at the core of what we do at the "NewsHour."

  • Mike Melia, Senior Broadcast Producer:

    Jim leaves behind a core set of principles: You, our viewers, are just as smart, if not smarter, than we are. And it's our job to present the news, and you can make up your own mind.

  • Debra Whitaker, Studio Receptionist:

    When he used to come in and call me his friend, it would just make me feel real good, because it felt like I was a part of the "NewsHour" family.

  • Hamada Hanoura, Editor:

    A lot of people looked up to Jim as the reference of what true and good journalism is. And for us here at the "NewsHour," we are and will be semper fi for the standards he set.

  • Sara Just, Executive Producer:

    If he sent an email saying good job, it really meant a lot. And I really cherish each one of those. There weren't that many.


    But they were, each and every one of them, very much appreciated, and you knew he meant them.

  • Sarah Clune, Producer:

    We were having a meeting in his office. And he was giving us his advice about what it took to become a journalist.

    And he said: "If you hear a fire siren or a police siren, and you don't wonder where it's going or what it's going for, then you probably don't have the drive to be a journalist."

    Julia Griffin, Senior Coordinator of Digital Video: My grandfather started going around introducing me as "Julia, my granddaughter who works for 'The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.'"

    And I think that is a testament to the legacy of what Jim did and this organization. It has launched careers of hundreds of journalists, and we can all walk around a little bit taller saying that we worked here.

  • Hari Sreenivasan, Anchor:

    While the other channels made a business out of people yelling at each other all day long, he showed us night after night and showed me that it was, in fact, possible to create a program where people could disagree agreeably about matters that matter.

    So, Jim, thanks for taking a chance on me.

  • Elizabeth Farnsworth, Former Foreign Correspondent:

    He always felt that foreign stories were important and had to be told.

    And I remember that, in the morning meetings, if somebody suggested a story that maybe nobody had heard anything about, but that was a really important foreign story, Jim would say, we're going to cover it. Who else will do it if we don't?

  • Paul Solman, Economics Correspondent:

    Jim was sentimental. Jim was tough. Robin's last night on the show, they said: Good night, Robin. Good night, Jim.

    And then in the control room, you saw the camera on Jim as he buried his head in his hands and sobbed.

  • Nancy Gerstman Morgan, Engineer-in-Charge:

    About 19 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was very scary for me, and I was very nervous.

    And Jim Lehrer found me walking in the hall one day. And he said to me: "Your job is to tell me whatever it is you need, because whatever you need, I will make sure you get it."

    Anne Azzi Davenport, Senior Coordinating Producer of Canvas/Arts and Culture: He loved his "NewsHour" family, and he loved the news. And, for that, we're all the better.

    Jeffrey Brown, Arts and Culture Correspondent: There wasn't the slightest bit of falseness or fakery in him.

    He was completely authentic. And it came through the screen. And I'm convinced it's why he connected with millions and was so good at what he did.

  • Alexis Cox, Producer:

    To this day, when I'm writing news copy, I will often think in the back of my head, what would Jim do? And I know his journalistic standards will always stay ingrained in me for the rest of my life.

    Here are the rules that he had for journalism, as read by our staff:

    Daniel Cooney, Social Media Editor and Producer: Rule number one, do nothing I cannot defend.

  • Ryan Connelly Holmes, Report/Producer:

    Number two, cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.

  • Tim McPhillips, Night Production Assistant:

    Number three, assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.

  • Deema Zein, Associate Producer, Digital Video:

    Number four, assume that all viewers are as smart and caring and good a person as I am.

    And, number five, assume the same about all people on whom I report.

    Wyatt Mayes, Social Media Editor and Producer: Number six, assume personal lives are a private matter, until a turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.

    Ilana Bernstein, Assistant to the Executive Producer: Number seven, carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.

    James Williams, Executive Director of Digital Strategy: Number eight, do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes, except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should be allowed to attack another anonymously.

  • Candice Norwood, Digital Politics Producer:

    Number nine, I am not in the entertainment business.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's been said 100 times. Journalism matters in a democracy. Jim believed that with every fiber of his body. And we carry that with us every day, every hour in what we do at the "NewsHour."

    So, Jim, you left us a gift that will be around forever. Our thank you, our love is endless. We miss you so much.

    And he was and is our North Star.

    And, online, we have gathered some of our favorite Jim sayings and observations. There, you can also share your own tribute to Jim. You can leave your memories and comments, and we will share them with Jim's family.

    That's on our website, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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