Jim Lehrer, journalist who co-founded PBS’ nightly newscast, dead at 85

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John McCain, Barack Obama

FILE – This Sept. 26, 2008 file photo shows debate moderator Jim Lehrer during the first U.S. Presidential Debate between presidential nominees Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. PBS announced that PBS NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer died Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, at home. He was 85. (AP Photo/Chip Somodevilla, File)

(NBC) — Jim Lehrer, a journalist who co-founded the PBS’ nightly newscast, died on Thursday. He was 85.

Lehrer anchored the public television nightly newscast for 36 years before retiring in 2011. PBS confirmed his death.

“As an anchor of several iterations of the NewsHour, Jim reported the news with a clear sense of purpose and integrity, even as the world of media changed around him,” said an obituary published on PBS.org.

The obituary said the newsman often reminded colleagues “It’s not about us.” He had nine rules for reporting the news including: “Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story” and “I am not in the entertainment business.”

Lehrer began as a newspaper reporter. He went from covering the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a young journalist in Dallas to broadcast reports with Robert MacNeil on the Watergate hearings, which led to the launch of their joint nightly news report.

He moderated a dozen presidential debates — more than anyone else in U.S. history, according to PBS.

Image: President Barack Obama answers a question from debate moderate Jim Lehrer during a presidential debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3, 2012.
President Barack Obama answers a question from debate moderate Jim Lehrer during a presidential debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3, 2012.Michael Reynolds / AP file

He also authored 20 novels, three memoirs and several plays, and was the recipient of countless journalism awards.

“I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” said Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour. “I’ve looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way.”

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