Iconic ‘NewsHour’ anchor Jim Lehrer dead at 85

Longtime PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer has died.

  • Lehrer, 85, anchored what is now the “PBS NewsHour” for 36 years, retiring in 2011.
  • “NewsHour” was founded in the aftermath of the Watergate break in.
  • He joined the show then known as “The Robert MacNeil Report” in 1973 — it would eventually become known as “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report.”
  • In 1983, the show expanded to one hour as a way to compete against the “big three” evening newscast and was retitled as “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.”
  • The pair eventually formed their own production company that was partially sold to Liberty Media.
  • For much of their run together, MacNeil anchored from WNET’s studios in New York City while Lehrer was based in WETA’s Arlington, Virginia studios just outside Washington, D.C.
  • MacNeil retired in 1995 and the show was renamed “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” in October of that year.
  • In 2009, the show was renamed “PBS NewsHour” though Lehrer continued to co-anchor with a rotation of other journalists.
  • He officially retired June 6, 2011, though he did continue to anchor one day a week and make other appearances on the show.
  • During the show’s Jan. 23, 2020 coverage of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Lehrer’s death was announced.

Lehrer had a storied journalism career.

  • Over the course of his career, Lehrer moderated 12 presidential debates, more than any other single person in history.
  • For the 1996 and 2000 elections, Lehrer moderated all of the two party debates.
  • Lehrer and MacNeil’s coverage of Watergate won an Emmy.
  • The show has won other Emmys as well as a Peabody.
  • Prior to “NewsHour,” Lehrer worked as a newspaperman in Dallas before moving to TV in the same market.
  • In addition to journalism, Lehrer also authored numerous books, plays and screenplays as well as three memoirs.

In 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors and co-managing editors of the show.

  • In 2014, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions transferred its archives and productions, including “NewsHour” to WETA under a newly created NewsHour Productions LLC, though the weekend editions of the show continue to be produced by WNET.
  • Ifill died in November 2016 and the show has switched back to Woodruff as solo anchor.
  • Robert MacNeil, meanwhile, is still alive as of Jan. 23, 2020 — at age 89.
  • Go behind the scenes of the “PBS NewsHour” set and lighting design.