A Principled, Steady Voice

The loss of journalist Jim Lehrer, who died last Thursday at age 85, inspired many tributes to his integrity.

I was fortunate enough to work for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer early in my career, and I’m still guided by his principled, steady, balanced voice. We knew the rules in his newsroom—no hiding behind anonymous sources; no “critics say, experts say.” 

He took his role moderating US presidential election debates so seriously that he said he didn’t vote—to earn people’s trust, regardless of their politics. And I know people on both sides of the aisle who felt at home with the NewsHour. 

In their moving on-air tribute, PBS NewsHour staff read out Lehrer’s 9 rules for journalists, including:

  • “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.”
  • “I am not in the entertainment business.”

Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute suggests adding a 10th: “Journalists should be more like Jim Lehrer.” —Dayna Kerecman Myers

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