JL: I must have been talking about circulation and ratings. My own view, there is a need for and a demonstrated need for more journalism now than there ever has been. The serious, real journalists of this country are more needed now than they ever have been because the blogs and the mp3s and the iPods, they’re all talking about the news, but where does the news originate? It originates with a reporter. It originates with a news organization. And whether it’s the NSA surveillance story or the Randy Cunningham story … all those started with reporting. And so there is increasingly evidence that the folks are understanding that, yes, it’s a terrific thing to be able to go on a radio show and shout about something or to exchange strong opinions on a blog and all of that, but in the beginning there has to be a story. All of that original reporting is being done by journalists.
LCB: About a month ago a Chicago Sun-Times reporter wrote, in a piece about Katie Couric moving to CBS, “Let’s face it: Most of us would rather hear the news from Survivor’s Jeff Probst than Jim Lehrer any day.” You thoughts on that?
JL: Be my guest. I don’t care what anybody like that says.
LCB: Do you think it’s true? What about the whole entertainment-ification of the news?
JL: I haven’t even got time to consider [that]. Look, we have a considerable audience for our program. We do serious journalism. We’ve been on the air for 30 years. We just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary and I have every [indication] we’ll be here for at least 30 more. Whether somebody says some stupid thing like that — be my guest, I don’t care. People can say anything they want to. If they don’t want to get the news from me, get it from somebody else. It’s not something I’m going to worry about, I’m sorry.
LCB: You have described the NewsHour as a forum for “civil discourse.” Can you elaborate? And, do you see any value in the often uncivilized cable shoutfests?
JL: Look, I’m a believer in all of it. I think all kinds of discourse is good for our democratic society — civil discourse, uncivil discourse, screaming, hollering, poetry, however you want to have a discussion is fine with me. I’m in the civil discourse business. I think it takes all kinds. And more power to everybody.
LCB: After too much exposure to cable news programs with sound effects, news crawls, triple-split-screens, flashing graphics and such, watching the NewsHour can be a shock to the system — the ability to focus, singly, on the story being presented without other images and noises competing for your attention. Do you see anything useful for the viewer in all these bells and whistles?
JL: I’d repeat what I said. People can get their news any way they want. What I love about what’s happened is that there are so many different avenues, there are so many different outlets, so many different ways to debate and discuss and to inquire about any given news story. If people want bells and whistles and all of that, there are bells and whistles available. If they don’t want bells and whistles there are places to go where they are not available. I am in favor of everything. Everyone should get their news however they want to and in whatever form they want. I’m not going to sit back in judgment of other people and the way they do it.