PBS personalities can certainly come across as full of themselves, even boasting of how they can dare to do news programming that almost nobody wants to watch. Take Jim Lehrer’s recent speech at the University of Texas, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman:
He warned against the "spicing up" of news with entertainment programming and partisan commentary. "You want to be entertained? Go to the circus, please. Do not watch 'The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,' " he said.
The typically straightforward face of "NewsHour" relayed humorous tales from his education at Victoria College and the early days at his 32-year-old show, which took a while to hit its stride.
"We did 30 minutes comparing naturally grown tomatoes to unnaturally grown tomatoes," Lehrer said. "Don't ask me why we did it.
"We did 30 minutes on the Portuguese elections that not even the Portuguese cared about."
During a question-and-answer session, 12-year-old Ruth Tipperreiter asked Lehrer why he still does what he does.
"I really believe with all my heart and soul that there is not one problem that can't be resolved by good people," Lehrer said. "That is the drive for me as a journalist."
That’s also a typical journalistic trope: I’m not just here to tell stories. I’m here to solve problems – which can often lead to siding with one set of "solvers." Lehrer’s show has a liberal feel, but it is notably bland in tone compared to the operatic Olbermanns of cable. Still, when Lehrer gets all boastful about how his show is not a circus, there are still a few examples of celebrity oddity in its history. From Notable Quotables, an old favorite from 1993:
"If either of the two [Madonna or Michael Jackson] is the logical heir to Marilyn Monroe, it is clearly Michael Jackson, who is the more bruised and authentically vulnerable of the two....Not only is he black and white, male and female, but also young and old, hip and square, the crotch-grabbing self-appointed guardian of the world's children." -- MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour essayist Anne Taylor Fleming, April 7, 1993.
That characterization doesn’t stand the test of time well, does it?