You can’t just be cynical and be a journalist.
Question: What do you believe?
Jim Lehrer: At the risk of sounding corny, I don’t know too many bad people in public life or in private life. I didn’t know any bad people when I was a kid, when I was growing up.
I was in the Marine Corps for three years. I didn’t know any bad people there.
Right up to this very day, I think instinctively, I think I assume the best rather than the worst. Maybe that’s why I’m still a practicing journalist--because you have to be an optimist to be a journalist. If you didn’t think the problems of global warming, or the Iraq war, or clean water, or crime, or drugs, or HIV could be solved; if you didn’t think they could be solved, you couldn’t be a journalist. You couldn’t do stories about them. You’d be depressed all the time about all the awful problems.
Somebody said, “You journalists are such cynics.”
And I said, “No. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” There’s no such thing as a cynical journalist. You can’t be cynical and be a journalist. You have to be an optimist. And I’m very much an optimist. And it’s always been that way, and it’s true in my journalism. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m interviewing somebody; I don’t judge them as people or even on what their views are. I’m there to let other people make those judgments. Think of that.
It would be really hard to sit on television – live television – and interview somebody that you thought; I don’t do that. I don’t allow myself that luxury. It could be that this guy is a jerk, and you may prove it in a few moments on television; but I don’t assume that. And I don’t make those judgments.
And the same thing applies in my novels. People; because none of us are all evil. I mean, there are some people who do evil things, including us, including me, you know? And we also do good things. And I always assume the good. As I say it sounds corny, but that’s just how I am.
Recorded: July 4, 2007.