Category Archives: History of MLP


History of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions

MacNeil/Lehrer Productions is an independent television production company founded by the news anchors Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer in 1981. For thirty years, it has produced one of the most trusted news programs in television, the PBS NEWSHOUR. It also develops, produces, and distributes some of American television’s highest quality non-fiction programming.

Jim Lehrer first joined forces with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to anchor public television’s unprecedented, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings. The team earned an Emmy Award and initiated one of the most enduring and respected journalistic partnerships in television history.

In 1975, The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour news program each weeknight that provided in-depth coverage of a different single issue, debuted locally on Thirteen/WNET in New York, with Jim Lehrer as Washington correspondent. A few months later, the successful program was re-titled The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and was distributed nationally by PBS. For the next seven years, the program set a standard for TV journalism and garnered more than 30 major awards for its co-anchors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, and a Television Critics Circle Award. It is that evening news collaboration that remains the cornerstone of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.

In 1983, the Report expanded to become the nation’s first full hour of evening news, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, proving there existed both a need and a substantial audience for serious, long-form journalism. Broadcasting simultaneously from New York and Washington, The NewsHour expressed the MacNeil/Lehrer signature style — low-key, evenhanded, inclusive of all perspectives — and included thousands of the world’s pivotal newsmakers, as well as a growing roster of top-flight correspondents and analysts. The NewsHour received numerous Emmy and Peabody awards, along with virtually every other significant award for quality television and outstanding journalism. With Robert MacNeil’s departure in 1995, the award-winning program was relaunched as The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. Under Lehrer’s direction, The NewsHour extended its reach in 1996 by launching a Web site and, in 1997, by opening a West Coast studio at KQED/San Francisco.

In 2009, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer was relaunched as the PBS NEWSHOUR, with the addition of a second anchor and the merger of the on-air and online news operations. In September 2010, the PBS NEWSHOUR was awarded the prestigious Chairman’s Award at the News and Documentary Emmys. The award is presented to an organization that has made a significant and distinguished contribution to the craft of broadcast journalism or documentary filmmaking.

In addition to producing the PBS NEWSHOUR, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions produces news and public affairs programs for PBS, commercial networks, and cable distribution, as well as coverage of national elections, the State of the Union address, national political conventions, and other major events for PBS.

Notable MLP productions include Debating our Destiny, a critically acclaimed two-part series in which Jim Lehrer interviews former presidential and vice-presidential candidates about their debate triumphs and failures; Generation Next, an exploration of the unique perspectives of Americans ages 16 – 25 by NewsHour senior correspondent Judy Woodruff; and the award-winning Do You Speak American?, Robert MacNeil’s cross-country trek to discover why Americans speak the way they do. MLP is also the leading force behind the By the People: America in the World civic engagement project, a series of more than 200 national discussions and citizen deliberations on the important issues of the day.