Robert MacNeil, creator and first anchor of PBS ‘NewsHour,’ dies at 93

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This Feb. 1978 photograph exhibits Robert MacNeil, govt editor of “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report.” AP cover caption

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- Robert MacNeil, creator and first anchor of PBS 'NewsHour,' dies at 93

This Feb. 1978 photograph exhibits Robert MacNeil, govt editor of “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report.”


NEW YORK — Robert MacNeil, who created the even-handed, no-frills PBS newscast “The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” within the Seventies and co-anchored the present for along with his late accomplice, Jim Lehrer, for twenty years, died on Friday. He was 93.

MacNeil died of pure causes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in keeping with his daughter, Alison MacNeil.

MacNeil first gained prominence for his protection of the Senate Watergate hearings for the general public broadcasting service and started his half-hour “Robert MacNeil Report” on PBS in 1975 along with his good friend Lehrer as Washington correspondent.

The printed turned the “MacNeil-Lehrer Report” after which, in 1983, was expanded to an hour and renamed the “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.” The nation’s first one-hour night information broadcast, and recipient of a number of Emmy and Peabody awards, it stays on the air immediately with Geoff Bennett and Amna Nawaz as anchors.

It was MacNeil’s and Lehrer’s disenchantment with the fashion and content material of rival information packages on ABC, CBS and NBC that led to this system’s creation.

“We need not SELL the information,” MacNeil informed the Chicago Tribune in 1983. “The networks hype the information to make it appear important, vital. What’s lacking (in 22 minutes) is context, typically stability, and a consideration of questions which might be raised by sure occasions.”

MacNeil left anchoring duties at “NewsHour” after twenty years in 1995 to jot down full time. Lehrer took over the newscast alone, and he remained there till 2009. Lehrer died in 2020.

When MacNeil visited the present in October 2005 to commemorate its thirtieth anniversary, he reminisced about how their newscast began within the days earlier than cable tv.

“It was a option to do one thing that gave the impression to be wanted journalistically and but was totally different from what the business community information (packages) had been doing,” he mentioned.

MacNeil wrote a number of books, together with two memoirs “The Proper Place on the Proper Time” and one of the best vendor “Wordstruck,” and the novels “Burden of Need” and “The Voyage.”

“Writing is way more private. It’s not collaborative in the best way that tv have to be,” MacNeil informed The Related Press in 1995. “However whenever you’re sitting down writing a novel, it is simply you: Here is what I believe, here is what I wish to do. And it is me.”

MacNeil additionally created the Emmy-winning 1986 collection “The Story of English,” with the MacNeil-Lehrer manufacturing firm, and was co-author of the companion e book of the identical identify.

One other e book on language that he co-wrote, “Do You Communicate American?,” was tailored right into a PBS documentary in 2005.

In 2007, he served as host of “America at a Crossroads,” a six-night PBS package deal exploring challenges confronting the US in a post-9/11 world.

Six years earlier than the 9/11 assaults, discussing sensationalism and frivolity within the information enterprise, he had mentioned: “If one thing actually critical did occur to the nation — a inventory market crash like 1929, … the equal of a Pearl Harbor — would not the information get very critical once more? Would not individuals run from `Onerous Copy’ and titillation?”

“After all you’d. You’d need to know what was occurring.”

That was the case — for some time.

Born in Montreal in 1931, MacNeil was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and graduated from Carleton College in Ottawa in 1955 earlier than shifting to London the place he started his journalism profession with Reuters. He switched to TV information in 1960, taking a job with NBC in London as a international correspondent.

In 1963, MacNeil was transferred to NBC’s Washington bureau, the place he reported on Civil Rights and the White Home. He lined the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas and spent most of 1964 following the presidential marketing campaign between Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, and Republican Barry Goldwater.

In 1965, MacNeil turned the New York anchor of the primary half-hour weekend community information broadcast, “The Scherer-MacNeil Report” on NBC. Whereas in New York, he additionally anchored native newscasts and several other NBC information documentaries, together with “The Large Ear” and “The Proper to Bear Arms.”

MacNeil returned to London in 1967 as a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corp.’s “Panorama” collection. Whereas with the BBC, be lined such U.S. tales because the conflict between anti-war demonstrators and the Chicago police on the 1968 Democratic Conference, and the funerals of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Sen. Robert Kennedy and President Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1971, MacNeil left the BBC to change into a senior correspondent for PBS, the place he teamed up with Lehrer to co-anchor public tv’s Emmy-winning protection of the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973.


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