‘PBS NewsHour’ Co-Founder and Co-Anchor Robert MacNeil Dies at 93

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
April 13, 2024US News
‘PBS NewsHour’ Co-Founder and Co-Anchor Robert MacNeil Dies at 93
Robert MacNeil attends the 2016 New Group Gala at the Tribeca Rooftop in New York City on March 7, 2016. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Canadian-American journalist Robert MacNeil, the co-founder and premier anchor of what is today known as the “PBS NewsHour,” died on April 12, PBS has revealed. He was 93.

Mr. MacNeil passed away early Friday morning at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in lower Manhattan, his daughter, Alison, told the New York Times.

The veteran newsman is renowned for his work on the earliest iteration of “PBS NewsHour,” a weekly half-hour news program called “The Robert MacNeil Report.” Launched in 1975, the nightly newscast was born from Mr. MacNeil and fellow journalist Jim Lehrer’s Emmy-winning coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings two years prior.

Mr. Lehrer, who passed away in January 2020 at age 85, served as the Washington correspondent for the television broadcast, later renamed “The MacNeil-Lehrer Report.” In 1983, the program was extended to an hour and retitled “The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour,” making it the country’s first hour-long nightly broadcast, according to the network.

After anchoring the news broadcast for two decades, Mr. MacNeil left the program in 1995 to write as a novelist full-time. Mr. Lehrer stayed on and the show earned the moniker “The NewsHour,” until a rotating anchor format was implemented in 2009, garnering it the title “PBS NewsHour.”

Remembering an Icon

As news of the legendary news anchor’s passing echoed throughout the industry, a wave of tributes poured in from PBS execs and fellow journalists, highlighting Mr. MacNeil’s talent and the immeasurable impact he had in journalism and public television as a whole.

In a statement, Paula Kerger, president and chief executive officer of PBS, expressed great sorrow over his loss, writing that his passing “marks the end of an era for PBS, and is a tremendous loss for our country.”

“His work with Jim Lehrer during the Watergate hearings, was profoundly important and groundbreaking,” she continued. “In creating the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, and ultimately the NewsHour, Robin and Jim set the standard for excellence in news programming through their focus on the facts and the critically important issues of the day. While we mourn his death, we honor his life and work by building on his legacy.”

Geoff Bennett and Amna Nawaz, the current co-anchors of “PBS NewsHour,” paid tribute to Mr. MacNeil in a joint statement, calling him “one of a kind.”

“With his distinctive voice, he brought stories to life—unraveling complex issues with clarity and compassion. Whether it was through his incisive reporting or his intimate interviews, he possessed a singular ability to connect with people. As we reflect on his many contributions, we honor his memory by continuing to pursue the truth and by fostering connections that bridge divides—just as Robin did with such grace and vigor. We are deeply grateful for the enduring legacy he leaves behind,” they penned.

Sara Just, the senior executive producer of “PBS NewsHour,” said Mr. MacNeil was “a giant in journalism,” albeit “a most gentle giant.”

“His and Jim Lehrer’s commitment to the news standards we practice still at the NewsHour are an ongoing inspiration to our newsroom and the industry overall,” she wrote.

Judy Woodruff, a senior correspondent for “PBS NewsHour,” said she was deeply saddened to hear the news of her friend’s passing. “One of the greatest honors of my life was working with Robin MacNeil and being part of the way he and Jim Lehrer changed television news,” she wrote.

“He was brilliant and urbane, but always with a delightful sense of irony. I’m so grateful to have spoken with him in January on his birthday, when that iconic, deep Canadian baritone voice sounded exactly as it had when he last anchored the NewsHour almost 30 years ago,” Ms. Woodruff continued.

Crafting Headlines

Mr. MacNeil was born in Montreal in 1931. He graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1955 before acquiring a position with Reuters in London.

He later became a foreign correspondent for NBC, covering some of the most groundbreaking headlines of his era, from being on the ground in Dallas, Texas, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated to covering the Civil Rights Movement, before helming the network’s “The Scherer-MacNeil Report” in 1965.

The award-winning journalist went on to work with BBC two years later, before moving on to become a senior correspondent with PBS in 1971.

Throughout his career, Mr. MacNeil authored many books, many of which he wrote after he departed from “PBS NewsHour,” including 1998’s “Breaking News,” 2003’s “Looking For My Country,” and 2005’s “Do You Speak American?”

Mr. MacNeil is survived by his four children, Cathy, Ian, Alison, and Will, and five grandchildren.

From The Epoch Times

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