If you were to go from station to station, publication to publication, and ask today’s more prominent journalists to name those that inspired their careers, the name Jim Lehrer would be at the top of most of their lists.
Sadly, the PBS icon is now dead at the age of 85, having passed away in his sleep on Thursday.
If you followed politics at any point over the last four decades, Lehrer was probably a primary source of information for you.
His career really blossomed during the Watergate scandal. Up to that point, Lehrer was mostly known for his roles at the now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald and Dallas Morning News.
When Watergate broke, however, Lehrer was the D.C. correspondent for the “Robert MacNeil Report” on PBS.
Lehrer would later become the co-host, with the “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” becoming the first hour-long news broadcast in the country. In 1995, MacNeil left the show, now renamed “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”
Lehrer was also a staple moderating presidential debates, taking the mantle in 1988 and continuing on through his last debate in 2012.
Outpouring of affection
Needless to say, when word of Lehrer’s passing spread, tributes came from generations of news broadcasters reflecting on his career, his influence, and the man himself.
Fox News’ Bret Baier called him an “inspiration to a whole generation of political journalists.”
Other high-profile journalists, such as fellow legend Dan Rather and CNN’s Jake Tapper also expressed their appreciation for the role Lehrer played in their own careers.
Lehrer had a history of heart problems, having a heart attack in 1983 and a valve surgery in 2008. Thankfully, his death was not painful, as family members stated that he “peacefully died in his sleep.”
Lehrer is survived by his wife, three daughters, and six grandchildren. Rest in peace, Mr. Lehrer. You were one-of-a-kind and you will be missed.