PBS NewsHour Anchor and Prolific Author Jim Lehrer Dies at 85

Known for his softspoken but probing manner, Jim Lehrer was an icon of public television for Americans tuning in weeknights to hear the world news discussed, explained, and calmly debated. He has died at 85. Lehrer was also a prolific author. His book about the 11 presidential debates he moderated resonates strongly this year.

Known for his softspoken but probing manner, Lehrer was an icon of public television for Americans tuning in every weeknight at dinnertime to hear the world news discussed, explained, and calmly debated. Teamed with Roger MacNeil for many of his 36 years onscreen, the former Kansas-born, Texas-educated journalist convinced viewers that the news could be deeply reported and navigated for a mainstream audience with care and accuracy, and a winning respect for civil discourse.

According to his publisher Random House, Lehrer wrote 21 novels, three nonfiction books, and four plays. In this era of presidential debates and jockeying for power in Washington leading up to the election, we want to highlight Lehrer’s smart take on what it was like to moderate a presidential debate with professionalism and intelligence. In her review of Lehrer's book Tension City, LJ Prepub Alert editor Barbara Hoffert wrote, “Former president George H.W. Bush once told PBS News anchor Lehrer that the presidential debates were ‘tension city,’ though if Lehrer himself felt that way, it never showed.”

Today, Tension City resonates in new ways. Because of this important moment in our history, we are reprinting the review in full.

Lehrer, Jim. Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to McCain-Obama. Random. Sept. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9781400069170. $26. CD: Random Audio.

Former president George H.W. Bush once told PBS News anchor Lehrer that the presidential debates were "tension city," though if Lehrer himself felt that way, it never showed. Dubbed the "dean of moderators" by CNN's Bernard Shaw, he has held sway over 11 presidential debates with enviable aplomb. Here he recalls those debates, detailing how the candidates prepared and how they fared. This should be an eye-opener from someone who saw it all up close and personal.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (LJ 4/1/11).

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