Longtime PBS NewsHour anchor and co-founder Jim Lehrer has died.
He died Thursday peacefully in his sleep at his home in Washington, PBS announced. He was 85.
Lehrer founded the daily evening news program with his colleague Robert MacNeil in 1975, out of their 1973 coverage of the Senate Watergate Hearings on PBS. He served as NewHour‘s anchor for 36 years before retiring in 2011.
“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, 73, the current 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.”
Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, also commemorated the late anchorman.
“It’s a sad day at @NewsHour,” she tweeted. “The founder of this program and longtime anchor, managing editor and soul of this program, Jim Lehrer, has passed away.”
The award-winning journalist moderated a total of 12 presidential debates, more than any other person in U.S. history. He was also the author of 20 novels, three memoirs and several plays. Prior to his career at the NewsHour, he reported at Dallas public television station KERA, the National Public Affairs Center for Television, the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times-Herald.
“I have an old-fashioned view that news is not a commodity,” he told the American Journalism Review in 2001. “News is information that’s required in a democratic society, and Thomas Jefferson said a democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry. That sounds corny, but I don’t care whether it sounds corny or not. It’s the truth.”
He is survived by his wife Kate; three daughters, Jamie, Lucy and Amanda; and six grandchildren.