Defending Jim Lehrer (Guest Voice)

Defending Jim Lehrer
by Anthony Moretti

I don’t know Jim Lehrer.

I’ve never met Jim Lehrer.

But I do admire Jim Lehrer.

After watching critics, the blogosphere and other forms of social media jump all over Lehrer for how he moderated the initial presidential debate, and then seeing Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley try but not succeed under the glare of moderator, it’s time to acknowledge that Lehrer might have done it right.

One of the challenges in evaluating a moderator is determining exactly what he or she is supposed to do. Is the expectation to get in the face of the candidates, challenging each word they use? Is it to ensure that the candidates stay on topic and remind them of that when they stray? Or is it to pose a few questions, ensure that professionalism remains on display and get out of the way?

Each moderator took one of those approaches. I’ll leave it to you to tell me which style you preferred.

In our polarized political universe, every journalist is perceived as biased. Lehrer, for example, works for PBS; therefore, there’s little doubt where he falls on the political spectrum. That environment demands a journalist stay as far removed from “the story” as he or she can.

If you don’t believe me, then consider the blowback Raddatz and Crowley faced for their posture. How dare they cut off either President Obama or Governor Romney as they tried to make a point! How could they tell someone to stick to the question asked! Doing that proves, proves I tell you!, those women were determined to see one of the candidates fail on the national stage so as to get the other one elected.

Now, let’s get serious for a moment and remember Lehrer comes from an era in which an anchor reported the news, gave you enough information to help you make up your mind and moved on to the next story. He (sorry, there were no shes back then) didn’t rant. He didn’t make millions upon millions of dollars. He didn’t parade himself all over the media universe.

In 2012, Lehrer is so passé. He should have been led to pasture a long time ago.

Unless you happen to like news delivered by a person who doesn’t want to be part of the story.

Anthony Moretti is an associate professor in the School of Communications and Information Systems at Robert Morris University, where he teaches a variety of journalism courses. He spent more than one-dozen years in the broadcast industry before entering higher education. He blogs daily on topics of news, politics, sports and more. This is cross posted from his blog.

Author: Guest Voice

6 Comments

  1. “… those women were determined to see one of the candidates fail on the national stage so as to get the other one elected.”

    Those that say there is not a war on women have not lived in the U.S. this week…

    Just curious if Raddatz and Crowley would of been men would of you questioned their toughness in moderating boundaries for the debate?

    If you don’t believe me, then consider the blowback Raddatz and Crowley faced for their posture. How dare they cut off either President Obama or Governor Romney as they tried to make a point! How could they tell someone to stick to the question asked! Doing that proves, proves I tell you!, those women were determined to see one of the candidates fail on the national stage so as to get the other one elected.

  2. Both sides blamed the moderator for their candidates poor showing. I wouldn’t dwell on it too much.

  3. Here’s my complaint about Jim Lehrer’s performance: he continues to hold the old meme “you can’t tell the candidates apart on policy”. That meme ran from the post-Nixon era up until 2000. It wasthe common complaint of voters, reporters & pundits alike. Hence all his questions that started with “how do you two differ on[insert topic here]“.

    George Bush and his campaign staff killed that meme, and it’s been dead ever since. The two parties are clearly different now, which is a good thing. Lehrer doesn’t see that, and therefore asked the wrong questions.

  4. Both Radditz and Crowley did fine jobs moderating. I’d be more than happy to see them moderating future debates. I too am a fan of Jim Lehrer and have been for a good many years. As we age though, it’s important to know when to bow out, even when our egos tell us otherwise. That time comes for all of us… eventually.

  5. Ordinary Sparrow: Read the post again…there was a healthy degree of sarcasm in my words. I am not attacking either woman; rather, I am making the point that the critics are convinced either or both women favor one candidate over the other. The larger point is that anytime any reporter injects himself or herself into a story, the charge of bias is going to be heard.

  6. Anthony thanks for the comment to re-read..read this post after midnight after reading Pennsylvania court getting tough on rape victims, then of course Claire as dog and magic womb Akin’s friend Mourdock with his relating rape to God’s will which was predominate yesterday…(pause to shiver) …on re-read the textures of the post come forth…

    Just two chirps worth here… i saw Radditz moderation as outstanding… would like to see the moderators hold tight the agreed debate guidelines and time limits…Example at the end of their time if they are still talking, let them finish the sentence. And yes, not to insert their bias…

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