- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Apowerhouse gathering of major media figures took place Monday night at WETA’s black-tie “Salute to Excellence” dinner honoring Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer of PBS’ “The NewsHour.” Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Cokie Roberts, Roger Mudd, Ben Bradlee, Judy Woodruff, George Stephanopoulos, Gwen Ifill, Mark Shields, David Brooks and Tom Friedman were among the 550 guests present at the Mellon Auditorium to recognize the accomplishments of the two forces behind the station’s 30-year-old news program.

WETA’s parallel goal was to thank the late media titan and diplomat Walter H. Annenberg and his wife, Leonore (who was unable to attend), for their staggering generosity over the years. As station president and CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller noted, raising money was “really secondary” to expressing gratitude to the Annenbergs, Mr. MacNeil (who retired in 1995), and Mr. Lehrer, the current “NewsHour” anchor.

Produced each night at WETA’s sleek, Annenberg-funded headquarters in Arlington, the “Newshour” has been much praised for its detached analysis and for avoiding the kind of sound-bite journalism some say exists on commercial television. (The narrator of a comical video history of the show that was screened for the audience called it “pathologically impartial.”)

Mr. Brokaw extolled the program’s “no-nonsense reporting” and “non-hysterical interviews.” Later he joked that “I honestly think that if for Jim Lehrer the answer is ‘Britney Spears,’ the question is ‘What does the Masai tribe of Africa hunt with?’”

Mr. Cronkite, introduced to a standing ovation, spoke of how Mr. MacNeil and Mr. Lehrer always had the opportunity to “not only present the headlines of the day, but interpret them,” which “made their colleagues at network news envious, including me.”

“We’ve been able to participate in the birth of an institution that has all the signs of going on forever,” Mr. Lehrer said, making sure to thank all those who had worked with him over the years.

Christina Ianzito

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