A newspaperman, a television news anchor and an author of 19 novels will speak at this year’s Honor the Free Press Day in Naples.
We’re not talking three separate speakers; we’re talking Jim Lehrer.
Perhaps best known as the executive editor and anchor of the evening news featured each weekday on Public Broadcasting Service channels, Lehrer will be the honoree March 17, the date of this year’s observance at the Naples Hilton.
The Marine Corps League of Naples annually honors a journalist as a way to emphasize the importance of a free press in America, something U.S. Marines have fought to preserve for more than 200 years. The annual observance was the idea of Michael Trephan, a member of the ET Brisson Attachment of the Marine Corps League.
There’s a luncheon, an awards program and a speech. It all concludes with a Marine Corps rifle salute outside around the Hilton’s flag pole.
Tickets for this year’s luncheon and Lehrer’s speech are $30.
Lehrer, like other honorees at previous Honor the Free Press Day events, has a military background. He served in the Marine Corps before starting a career as a reporter at the Dallas Morning News in 1956.
He later became a political columnist and then city editor at the Dallas Times-Herald, then jumped into broadcast journalism with the public television station in Dallas. He was soon promoted to Washington, D.C., to serve as the public affairs coordinator for PBS.
In 1973, he teamed up with Robert MacNeil to provide live coverage of the U.S. Senate Watergate hearings broadcast on PBS. Their partnership evolved into “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” and later the “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” which won more than 30 awards for journalism excellence.
After MacNeil’s retirement in 1996, Lehrer became the lone nightly host of the NewsHour. He has won two Emmys, a Peabody and the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. Besides anchoring the nightly news on PBS, Lehrer has served as moderator for 11 presidential debates over the years. He’s written three plays and two memoirs in addition to his 19 published novels, including his series of books featuring a fictional lieutenant governor of Oklahoma.
The annual Honor the Free Press Day observance is open to the public. Doors open at 10:45 a.m. and the lunch will be served at 11 a.m.
Reservations are required and must be made by March 12 by mailing an RSVP and check to: Marine Corps League, c/o Nick Marsit, P.O. Box 8982, Naples 34104. You can call (239) 352-7611 if you have questions.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.