Born in Wichita, Kansas on May 19, 1934, Jim Lehrer is best known for the “MacNeil – Lehrer Report” (now the “PBS News Hour”) on PBS, but he has a distinguished career in journalism. Lehrer earned degrees in journalism from Victoria College and the University of Missouri, before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Afterwards, he went to work for the “Dallas Morning News” in 1959 and then with the “Dallas Times Herald” in 1966. His newspaper work led him to KERA-TV, the Dallas affiliate of PBS, where he became executive director of public affairs.
He remained with PBS when he transferred to Washington, D.C., a move that proved vital for him and public television. Once there, he met and teamed up with another veteran journalist Robert MacNeil. The duo gained recognition for journalistic integrity and excellence when they began covering the Watergate hearings live in 1973. It was unprecedented for its time; an early version of reality TV.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Lehrer at a writers’ conference in Austin in May of 2009. He is the author of 20 books, 2 memoirs, 3 plays and a non-fiction piece about presidential debates entitled “Tension City.” He is more affable than he appears on television and entertained the small crowd with backroom stories of the news arena. Looking at all the talking heads on national television, I can honestly say very few compare to Jim Lehrer.