The Media Today

Lehrer's organization in PBS is a Quaker monarchy.
  • Transcript


Jim Lehrer: I have the best job in journalism. Not just the best job in television journalism; the best job in journalism. And the way I define “best” is that I am free to practice the kind of journalism I want to practice, and so are my colleagues at the NewsHour. We have no people looking over our shoulders – no PBS people, no underwriter people, no any kind of people. Our mistakes are our own. If we don’t wanna do a story on Paris Hilton, we don’t do a story on Paris Hilton. If we don’t want to do a story on the O.J. Simpson trial, we don’t do a story on the O.J. Simpson trial. We wanna devote 20 minutes to global warming and Africa, we do 20 minutes on global warming and Africa. That may not be a good idea. Maybe we should have done this or whatever; but we practice . . . Every day we sit . . . We are . . . We don’t have to worry about the outside . . . You know journalism is . . . In the best circumstances, you’re gonna . . . you’re gonna make mistakes because news happens . . . It doesn’t happen in neat and tidy packages. Sometimes you go on the air 6 o’clock eastern time but the story’s not finished. But you still have to go with what you’ve got. And you know you can correct it the next day or whatever. And anytime you introduce an outside influence, you increase . . . we increase the chances you’re gonna be wrong. We have no outside influences. Now my job as the Executive Editor of the program is that I am the . . . We . . . we call it internally – facetiously, but not quite so facetiously – we have a . . . have a Quaker monarchy. In other words we have a consensus system where we work . . . all of us work together, talk together about what we think the news of the day is, how we should present it, all that sort of stuff. But then in the final . . . when we get where we can’t agree, then the monarchy takes over, and I’m the monarch! And I asked some young man who was doing a story for some magazine about all of the TV journalists who are from Texas. And he was doing a piece, “Why is this?” And you know Rather was still there. _______, of course, was still there. And anyhow this kid was taking my picture, and he said, “Mr. Lehrer, I’ve taken pictures of all these guys now and they seemed all uptight. You seem so relaxed. What’s the difference?” And I said, “Well the difference is I am the boss.” And in a journalism organization, if you’re not the boss, if you don’t make any of these final decisions, you waste all your energy arm wrestling.