“I am not in the entertainment business.”
January 24, 2020 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Co-founder of PBS NewsHour and journalism legend Jim Lehrer has passed away at the age of 85.

Jim Lehrer’s Rules

1, Do nothing I cannot defend.
2, Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
3. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.
4. Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and good a person as I am.
5. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
6. Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
7. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label everything
8. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should be allowed to attack another anonymously.
9. “I am not in the entertainment business.”
posted by vverse23 (44 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Windopaene at 12:39 PM on January 24


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posted by Otherwise at 12:41 PM on January 24


One of his great passions was on display in his basement at home and his office at work: the intercity bus memorabilia Jim had collected over the years.

That's magnificent. If there were more public figures whose private obsessions were as gloriously innocuous as intercity bus ephemera, the world would be a far better place.
posted by zamboni at 12:47 PM on January 24 [22 favorites]


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posted by mantecol at 12:47 PM on January 24


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posted by proneSMK at 12:49 PM on January 24


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posted by queensissy at 12:52 PM on January 24


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posted by General Malaise at 1:05 PM on January 24


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posted by Lyme Drop at 1:19 PM on January 24


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posted by Melismata at 1:22 PM on January 24


If there were more public figures whose private obsessions were as gloriously innocuous as intercity bus ephemera, the world would be a far better place.

Lehrer also wrote a series of novels, starting with Kick the Can, about a kid who loses one eye and thus can't be a state trooper like his dad, and therefore decides to be a pirate and hijacks an intercity bus to drive to the Gulf of Mexico. The later books in the series sort of peter out, but the first one is solid.

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posted by Halloween Jack at 1:24 PM on January 24 [10 favorites]


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Those are admirable rules from a gentler time. Sadly, rules 3 and 5 don't hold up and have become a serious problem for us. Rule 7 has always been difficult in practice; nobody knows when analysis ends and opinion begins, especially when it's you doing the analysis.

But I don't want to derail this from fond remembrances. It's not his fault that "comity" has become a weapon to be used asymmetrically. I would not be surprised to learn that has commented upon that. Perhaps someone here will know?

To his passion for intercity bus lines, as a native of Wichita, bus travel would have been a portal to the outside world. He almost certainly depended on bus lines to travel to school in Texas and Missouri and for trips to the big city (Kansas City, in his case).

This is a nice remembrance from a fellow Kansan.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:26 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


RIP to one of the Tedium Twins
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 1:39 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I just noticed that it's the same article as the FPP, reprinted.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:42 PM on January 24


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posted by Splunge at 2:00 PM on January 24


Noisy: Harpers became a bit shrill even for me in that era. Lewis Lapham was too fond of his persona as a modern Diogenes. But, yeah, the News Hour did embody both-siderism perfectly. I would venture that it was well-intended, if very blinkered by status quo baselines. Today, both-siderism is Kabuki theatre.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:09 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


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posted by gwint at 2:09 PM on January 24


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

MacNeil/Lehrer Report, April 19, 1977 - the entire show is about the state of the tomato in America.
posted by pracowity at 2:32 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


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posted by Pouteria at 2:44 PM on January 24


Tomatoes are a legitimate topic that sheds light on the tensions between food quality, transport, storage, shelf-life, globalization and mass production. These are things we've talked about here on the blue and this report seems fairly prescient, IMO.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:04 PM on January 24 [10 favorites]


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posted by mystyk at 3:07 PM on January 24


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Bene vale to my fellow from the Free State.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 3:13 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:06 PM on January 24


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posted by Sphinx at 4:14 PM on January 24


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posted by vibrotronica at 4:17 PM on January 24


As a kid, McNeil and Lehrer were the news to me. Then Louis Rukheiser (who Steve Rushin describes as a guy in a George Washington wig) would deliver business news and bad puns....but that was just money stuff and not News to me.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:09 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


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posted by captain afab at 9:48 PM on January 24


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posted by bryon at 10:16 PM on January 24


First grade me was once on the television saying that the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour was my favorite show on PBS, and it wasn't even a lie. I still don't understand why the CBS affiliate was asking us about shows on PBS, though. Not that it seemed odd at the time..
posted by wierdo at 10:23 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


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posted by Standard Orange at 10:58 PM on January 24


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posted by fleacircus at 11:37 PM on January 24


Rest well, Jimmy Jimmy Bobo.

A prime example, I think, of taking one’s work seriously but not oneself.

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posted by armeowda at 9:52 AM on January 25


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posted by camyram at 10:03 AM on January 25


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posted by dbiedny at 8:26 AM on January 26


I've read a decent amount about the JFK assassination, but I was surprised to discover this (which he has spoken about before, apparently, but I never heard it) in his Hollywood Reporter obit:
Lehrer began his journalism career as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times-Herald. He was assigned to cover the arrival of President John F. Kennedy at Dallas' Love Field on Nov. 22, 1963, and with a chance of rain, he noticed the Plexiglas bubble on the president's limousine — set to take part in a motorcade through downtown — was up.

"The Secret Service agent who was standing at the top of the ramp I happened to know," Lehrer recalled 50 years later. "And I said to him, 'Mr. Soros, I see the bubble top is up. Rewrite wants to know if it's going to be up during the thing.'

"And he looks up at the sky — I will never forget this. He looks up at the sky, and it's clear. … He yells down at an agent with a two-way radio, and he says, 'Check it downtown? What's it like downtown?' The guy goes, blah, blah, blah, blah.

"And then he says, 'Clear downtown.' And the agent that I'm talking to then yells to the other agents who are in charge of the motorcade, 'Lose the bubble top.'

"So they take the bubble top down."
An innocent question, but I wonder how much he thought about that afterward. (Yes, I know the bubble top wasn't bulletproof, but you'd think it might've made aiming a bit more challenging.)

On a somewhat related note, his future PBS partner Robert MacNeil -- whom he did not yet know -- possibly ran into Lee Harvey Oswald exiting the Texas School Book Depository.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:23 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Also, Jason Kottke found a longer version of Lehrer's rules (with 16 vs. 9) cited by OP.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:27 PM on January 26


From the folks at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library: "Jim was a dear friend to our organization, serving as an honorary board member. Jim even came to Indy once to speak at Night of Vonnegut, and he told me all of the things I did wrong as a supervisor and event planner. Thank God for honesty and constructive criticism. Jim and I were both former Marines, and I knew when he was trying to help me make the organization better that he was in it for the long haul. I listened to his advice and implemented many of his suggestions. We had Jim in our world for nearly ten years. He was also a big financial contributor to the organization, but his advice and support were his greatest contributions."
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:07 AM on February 3


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