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Journalism

RIP, Jim Lehrer

One of the great journalists from a bygone era died today at the age of 85. Jim Lehrer covered many major events over his career, including the JFK assassination and the Watergate hearings. He had a list of nine tenets he followed that I wish every journalist followed. This one especially, which, sadly, is more relevant in 2020 than ever: “I’m not in the entertainment business.”

It’s a pretty awful time for journalism–constantly under attack, most astonishingly by the commander-in-chief, yet the institution doesn’t do itself any favors, especially in the broadcast realm. Lehrer should be revered. Here are his nine rules…read ’em and weep for humanity.

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