PBS NewsHour, an hour of news, was based on the suddenly ancient idea that people sit down in front of their televisions to watch an uninterrupted hour of news. Doesn’t that, in this age of smartphones and Twitter and a million other points of electronic light, have kind of a when-dinosaurs-roamed-the-Earth ring to it?
Lehrer doesn’t flinch as he breaks into an easy chuckle.
“If we were starting the show now, we’d have to call it The NewsBlip, or The NewsBlink. The truth is our roots are very old-fashioned, but we are adapting to accommodate new desires. There’s going to be a new generation of gatekeepers; they’re not going to old white guys like me.
“But we still need gatekeepers, and those gatekeepers need to be professional journalists.”
At a time when all the buzz is centered on the notion of “citizen journalists,” such talk runs the risk of being dismissed as the worst kind of fuddy-duddyism. Lehrer is unmoved.
“I think people are slowly realizing that you need to know the facts before we can have an informed opinion — what exactly did happen, what were the contents of the speech, what does the birth certificate say? And for that you need a news source you can trust.
“A ‘citizen journalist’ may provide a tip for a story, but I would no more want to rely on citizen journalists for the news than I would a citizen doctor for my surgery.”