Jim Lehrer

Ross Hunter

You may have seen that Jim Lehrer, who began along with Robert MacNeil, the program that became the PBS News Hour died on Jan 23.

Knowing that WJMA Alum Cathy Wills Christovich once worked at WETA where the program originated, I asked her if she worked with Lehrer. Below is her answer.


Yes,  I worked for The NewsHour from about 1980 until sometime in the Fall of 1987.  I was a videotape editor and my assignments were of both the quick-and-dirty variety and extended pieces on a particular subject.  I worked with Charles Krause and his producer Susan Mills on several stories about Nicaragua and the Communist insurgency there.

I remember Jim Lehrer more as a presence than as someone I knew and talked to.  He functioned as a managing editor, all the producers and reporters 'pitched' their story ideas at a daily meeting.  Although most of my interactions with him were along the lines of a greeting in the hallway, I do remember some moments.  Jim was recovering from his heart attack and under strict instructions to take a half-hour nap every afternoon and to carefully control his diet.  Came the day when we were all working late on a 'turnaround,' revising and re-feeding the show to meet the West Coast's need for an update.  Between 7:00 and 9:00 EST someone always ordered food for anyone who had to stick around, and this time it was from Popeye's.  Jim dug in with the rest of us, and when he had eaten he said, 'If anyone asks, I had a turkey sandwich.'

I know he was a stickler for accuracy and for getting it right.  I don't recall the program ever having to correct an error or apologize for a screw-up.  Accuracy and dare-I-say-it truth were important and given honor and respect.  Both Robin and Jim were the leaders and exemplars of that attitude.  Would that it were still that way.