This lecture features Jim Lehrer in conversation with renowned author and Chautauqua favorite Roger Rosenblatt.
Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," the Emmy Award-winning PBS news show, is author of 19 novels, two memoirs and three plays. His most recent novel, Oh Johnny, was published in April 2009.
Tom Becker is the president of Chautauqua Institution. Becker joined Chautauqua in March 1985 as a vice president of the Institution and vice president of the Chautauqua Foundation. Over the years he was promoted to executive vice president and CEO of the Foundation.
In 2001, he continued as chief executive officer of the Foundation and was named executive vice president of Chautauqua Institution. As chief executive, Becker oversaw the growth of the Foundation into a professional fund-raising organization and led it to raising over $100 million in support of the Institution.
Since he wasn't a very good baseball player, he turned to sports writing, then writing in general. As a member of what he's called "the Hemingway generation," he decided to support himself as a newspaper writer until he could make a living as a novelist.
After graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism, Lehrer served for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, then began his career as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor in Dallas. His first novel, about a band of Mexican soldiers re-taking the Alamo, was published in 1966 and made into a movie. Lehrer quit his newspaper job in order to write more books, but was lured back into reporting after he accepted a part-time consulting job at the Dallas public television station. He was eventually made host and editor of a nightly news program at the station.
Lehrer then moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as public affairs coordinator for PBS and as a correspondent for the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT). At NPACT, Lehrer teamed up with Robert MacNeil to provide live coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings, broadcast on PBS. It was the beginning of a partnership that would last more than 20 years, as Lehrer and MacNeil co-hosted The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (originally The Robert MacNeil Report) from 1976 to 1983, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour from 1983 to 1995. In 1995, MacNeil left the show, but Lehrer soldiered on as solo anchor and executive editor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
When he wasn't busy hosting the country's first hour-long news program, Lehrer wrote and published books, including a series of mystery novels featuring his fictional lieutenant governor, One-Eyed Mack, and a political satire, The Last Debate. Lehrer surprised critics and won new readers with his breakout success, White Widow, the "tender and tragic" (Washington Post) tale of a small-town Texas bus driver. He followed it with the bestselling Purple Dots, a "high-spirited Beltway romp" (The New York Times Book Review), and The Special Prisoner, about a WWII bomber pilot whose brutal experiences in a Japanese P.O.W. camp come back to haunt him 50 years later. His recent novel No Certain Rest recounts the quest of a U.S. Parks Department archaeologist to solve a murder committed during the Civil War.
Across this wide range of subjects, Lehrer is known for his careful plotting and even more careful research. Clearly, this is a man who cares about good stories -- but which is more important to him, journalism or fiction? Lehrer once admitted that he's known as "the TV guy who also writes books. Someday, maybe it will go the other way and I'll be the novelist who also does television."
Roger Rosenblatt is a journalist, author, playwright, and teacher. William Safire of the New York Times wrote that his work represents "some of the most profound and stylish writing in America today." His television essays for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS have won a Peabody and an Emmy award. His essays for TIME magazine have won two George Polk Awards, awards from the American Bar Association, the Overseas Press Club, and others.
Rosenblatt's journalism career began in 1975 as literary editor of The New Republic. He has also been a columnist and editor-at-large for Life magazine, the editor of U.S. News & World Report, a columnist and editorial board member of The Washington Post and editor-at-large of TIME, Inc. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Esquire and elsewhere.
He is the author of ten books, including a collection of his writings, The Man in the Water, Coming Apart: A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969, and the national bestseller, Rules for Aging. His book Children of War (1983) won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book, Lapham Rising (2006), his first novel, was loosely based on the lecture he delivered on major trends of the 20th century at Chautauqua in 2004.
Rosenblatt is currently a professor in the English department at Stony Brook University, where he teaches in the writing program at Stony Brook Southampton. He was most recently the Edward R. Murrow Visiting Professor of the Practice of the Press and Public Policy at Harvard University and held the Parsons Family Chair at the Southampton graduate campus of Long Island University.