National Press Club

Jim Lehrer of PBS wins 2011 Fourth Estate Award

April 4, 2011 | By Jerry Zremski |

Jim Lehrer, who has set a standard of broadcast excellence at PBS for more than 35 years, has been selected as the winner of the National Press Club’s 2011 Fourth Estate Award, the highest honor presented by the world’s leading professional organization for journalists.

“Jim Lehrer has embodied the time-tested core values of journalism dating back to when many people had only black and white screens and continuing through today's era of high definition television and social media,” said Club President Mark Hamrick, after the Club’s Board of Governors chose Lehrer for the honor. “Amid the cacophony of a sometimes shrill media landscape, he has remained the true voice of reason, balance and fairness.”

Lehrer, longtime host of the PBS NewsHour, is the 39th recipient of the Club award for career achievement.

Previous award winners include Walter Cronkite, Christiane Amanpour and David Broder. Hamrick said the selection of Lehrer was in keeping with that tradition.

“He has never appeared to underestimate the intelligence or sensitivities of members of his audience,” Hamrick said. “Acknowledged as the dean of presidential debate moderators, Jim Lehrer has provided invaluable assistance for Americans choosing whom they want to lead the nation.”

Indeed, Lehrer has moderated 11 debates over the course of the past six presidential elections.

After an early career in newspapers, Lehrer joined a public television station in Dallas and later moved to PBS in Washington, where he first appeared as Washington correspondent on the Robert MacNeil Report in 1975. A year later the show was renamed “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report,” and began to amass a remarkable record of achievement, winning more than 30 awards for journalism excellence over the next seven years.

Lehrer became the sole host of the hour-long PBS nightly news show upon MacNeil’s retirement in 1996. And since then, Lehrer has won a National Humanities Medal and been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

Lehrer’s 23rd book, Tension City – an account of his experiences moderating the presidential debates – will be released in September. He is the author of 20 novels and two other memoirs, as well as three plays.

The Club will present Lehrer with his award at a gala dinner later this year. Details of the dinner will be announced shortly.