Oct. 5, 2004

Lehrer Critical of Rather, Networks on The Kalb Report

As Jim Lehrer sees it, CBS News Anchor Dan Rather demonstrated poor judgment and sloppy journalism when he used what turned out to be unverified documents as the support for a story criticizing President George W. Bush’s National Guard service. The executive editor and anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer offered that candid opinion as the featured guest for the 40th production of The Kalb Report on Sept. 20. Lehrer went on to sharply rebuke all three broadcast networks for limiting their coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to three hours each over four nights.

“At The News Hour this would not have been a routine story [of the CBS news scandal],” Lehrer said, arguing that a story of this magnitude should have received greater scrutiny before airing. “I find it difficult to replicate this situation in any news organization I’ve worked with. You’ve got to handle a story like this like it’s dynamite.”

Lehrer also pulled no punches when he criticized decision makers at ABC, CBS and NBC who defended their lack of convention coverage on the basis of ratings and the changing role of the convention.

“They essentially said, ‘Don’t watch us,’ ” commented Lehrer. “Next year they can say, ‘Look how low our ratings were, we can do even less.’ ”

The award-winning Kalb Report public affairs series received a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation to produce four forums during the 2004–05 academic year, two programs this fall and two more in the spring. The foundation was established in 1982 by Edith Kinney Gaylord for charitable, scientific and educational purposes, including the improvement of journalism.

The Kalb Report series is produced by GW Vice President for Communications Michael Freedman, and is a public affairs partnership between GW, The National Press Club, The Joan Shorenstein Center on The Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and News Talk 630 WMAL Radio. The forum aired live on WMAL and for the first time on XM Satellite Radio, which will bring the entire series to a national radio audience this academic year. The program also was taped for public television.

The topic for next edition of The Kalb Report will be “Talk Show Democracy,” and is scheduled for Oct. 18 at 8 pm in the National Press Club. Tickets are free and available at the Marvin Center TicketMaster or by calling 994-6460.

Send feedback to:


GW News Center

Related Link

The Kalb Report

GW Home Page Oct. 5 Cover