VIDEO: Interview with Journalism Icon and NewsHour Anchor Jim Lehrer

October 7, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Kassi Schmitt

Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of The NewsHour on PBS, had the audience laughing and applauding his stories and successes as a journalist Wednesday night at the 11th annual Sammons Media Ethics Lecture.

The distinguished journalist spoke to a sold-out crowd of students, faculty and Dallas residents about how he came to where he is in his career today, adding some important ethical tips about journalism he learned along the way.

Lehrer sat down to speak with the Daily Mustang’s Kellis Cunningham about his long career. Check out the video below.

VIDEO: Interview With Jim Lehrer from on Vimeo.

“Journalism isn’t about truth, it’s about gathering facts,” Lehrer said. “Our job is only to provide the facts and let each individual consumer make up his or her own decision.”

Establishing Texan Roots

Lehrer said he began to focus on becoming a journalist at the age of 17 after his baseball coach shattered his dream of ever becoming a professional and a teacher told him he had a knack for writing.

After serving in the Marine Corps, Lehrer sent letters to four different news organizations in hopes of securing his first journalism job. He endured rejection by all but The Dallas Morning News, where he was offered a position as a federal reporter.

Lehrer quit a short time later when his editor refused to run an article he had been working on about a civil defense operation in Dallas in fear that it would embarrass one of his friends.

Hearing Lehrer had left the newspaper, the Dallas Times Herald instantly hired him as a court reporter where he said he learned many of the lessons of journalism that he carries with him every day.

“There is no such thing as a sure thing,” Lehrer said in regards to journalism. “If you wait until you have the truth, you’ll never go to press. The truth is deeper than a set of facts.”

Lehrer mentioned other significant events in his journalism career that affected him throughout the rest of his profession that kept the audience waiting on the edge of their seats.

On the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, Lehrer was stationed in Dallas at Love Field airport to report on the arrival and departure of the president. He was told to find out if the bubble top on the car Kennedy would be riding in was to remain on or off the vehicle. After asking a secret service agent, the top was removed and Kennedy was escorted downtown where he was shot and killed.

“One event can change the course of all our fragile lives,” Lehrer said remembering the course of the day’s events. “On any given day, something somewhere could happen.”

After recounting other influential events in his career including a lecture given by Martin Luther King Jr. at SMU, Lehrer said he left the print industry of journalism. He began his television career at KERA-TV which eventually led him to Washington and the production of The NewsHour on PBS.

A Familiar Crowd

Audience members attending the lecture not only came from the SMU community, but streamed in from the surrounding area as well. Allen, Texas couple, Stan and Donna Newding, attended the lecture after reading about it in the paper and said they found the evening to be very entertaining.

“It was clear that [Lehrer] had a purpose before he even started his career,” Stan Newding said. “Some doors opened and some closed but he always knew what he wanted to do.”

But among the crowded theatre, Lehrer was able to recognize a few friendly faces.

Lehrer told the story of how the first time he spoke in front of a group of people it was for SMU English professor Marshall Terry’s class, who happened to be seated in the auditorium Wednesday night.

John Tackett also was also in the audience listening to his close friend’s lecture. Tackett and Lehrer were previous co-workers and had met at KERA where they worked together on the Dallas Newsroom segment and became very close.

“This merely put the shine on the true Jim Lehrer and his character, honesty and truth,” Tackett said. “He’s not getting older, he’s getting better and I would say his accomplishments speak for everything.”

Lehrer concluded his lecture by offering a few of his personal ethical rules to abide by in the journalism field.

“Do nothing I can’t defend, do the story as if it were about me, always assume there is another side to the story, separate opinion and analysis, assume all my readers are as smart as I am, don’t use anonymous quotes and I am not in the entertainment industry,” Lehrer said.

The Rosine Smith Sammons Media Ethics Lecture Series is hosted annually by SMU’s Division of Journalism and is funded by an endowment from the Rosine Foundation Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas. The series is named in honor of Rosine Smith Sammons, who graduated from SMU in the 1920s with a degree in journalism.

The Daily Update: Wednesday, Oct. 6

October 6, 2010 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Wednesday, Oct. 5 from on Vimeo.

We’ll tell you about a historic meeting talking peace today, the possibility of your favorite mockingbird retailers in the basement of new dorms, and how Obama reacted to something slippery in his speech.