Jim Lehrer’s journalism guidelines

Jim LehrerThe national nightly news broadcast on public television will look different tonight. For more than 30 years, Jim Lehrer has been the face of the program. Now, his role will be diminished and his name removed from the program’s title. The new PBS NewsHour will add a rotating cast of co-anchors on TV and streaming video updates on the Web.

But some things won’t change, Lehrer told his audience last Friday, like the guidelines he’s always lived by:

  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 as caring and as good a person as I am. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
  5. Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
  6. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label everything.
  7. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
  8. I am not in the entertainment business.

I’m thinking of printing out that list and posting it in every newsroom I visit. It would certainly be good discussion fodder!

Watch Lehrer’s full explanation of the changes coming to the NewsHour here, and read more about it in this piece from the New York Times.


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