Jim Lehrer would not last five minutes in network television. His career would be even shorter on cable TV.
Despite his many awards and accolades -- all deserved in my opinion -- Lehrer would not stand a chance of getting hired in TV today, especially on cable. For one thing, he is not a yeller. He is not a bad looking guy, but he is no Brian Williams either. As Lehrer told Stephen Colbert, "It takes guts to be boring."
About the only wacky quirk I was able to find out about him was that he is an avid collector of bus memorabilia, which he likes to purchase on eBay. He is a serious journalist and the show proves it. The only time the name of Anna Nicole Smith was mentioned on the program was when a case involving her made the Supreme Court.
The 74-year-old native of Wichita has been a mainstay of PBS since the 1970s. He has the qualities of fairness and objectivity that the public wants in all journalists. Not surprisingly, both political parties have chosen him to moderate presidential debates. He oversaw all three of them in 2000 and moderate the first debate in 2008.
Lehrer also is the author of 19 novels, two memoirs, and three plays.
Though he stands no chance of getting hired in the commercial media world, his place on PBS is secure.
PBS yesterday announced plans to revamp the venerable "NewsHour" which Lehrer has been a part of since 1975. As The New York Times reported, starting in September Lehrer will be joined by either Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff or Jeffrey Brown. A correspondent will be hired to read the summary of the day's news, which is currently read by Lehrer, and to anchor daily webcasts from the newsroom.
In a speech today at the PBS Showcase, Lehrer said he briefly considered retiring from the show because of health problems. But he changed his mind following successful heart valve replacement surgery, saying the surgery made him feel 10 years younger.
"We really are the fortunate ones in the current tumultuous atmosphere of journalism, when we wake up in the morning we only have to ask ourselves: What is the news and how we will cover it?" he said. "Never: Who are we? Why we are here? And what we do? That is the way it has been for 35 years and the way it will be forever."
And it's a good thing too.