Inspiring rules for journalists by PBS NewsHour's Jim Lehrer (RIP)

In the Aspen Institute's 1997 report on "Journalism and Society," PBS NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer, who died last week at 85-years-old, contributed the following wisdom:

I practice journalism in accordance with the following guidelines:

Do nothing I cannot defend. Do not distort, lie, slant, or hype. Do not falsify facts or make up quotes. Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story. Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and good a person as I am. Assume the same about all people on whom I report. Assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story mandates otherwise. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label them as such. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously. Do not broadcast profanity or the end result of violence unless it is an integral and necessary part of the story and/or crucial to understanding the story. Acknowledge that objectivity may be impossible but fairness never is. Journalists who are reckless with facts and reputations should be disciplined by their employers. My viewers have a right to know what principles guide my work and the process I use in their practice. I am not in the entertainment business.

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