Jim Lehrer will moderate tonight's presidential debate with the same thoughtful tone he instilled in me as a young journalist. With Washington gridlocked, our next president will need that same spirit of inquiry and dialogue. Mitt Romney and President Obama should start by taking a cue from Jim.
Millions of Americans will tune in to tonight’s presidential debate. Most of them, it’s fair to say, are primarily interested in how President Obama and Mitt Romney will handle themselves. I’ll watch for that, too.
But my primary focus will be on Jim Lehrer of PBS, who will be moderating his twelfth presidential debate. I’ll be eager to see how Jim practices what he taught me more than 40 years ago – the art of the interview.
I was a young investigative reporter and political writer for the Dallas Times Herald, and Mr. Lehrer was my editor. On my first day he walked over to my desk in the newsroom and asked me to tell him how I did interviews. He had read many of my stories, but had never actually seen me conduct an interview.
I told him that when I got an assignment I first developed a list of possible sources and then drafted a short inventory of pump-primer questions. “Okay,” he said. “Then what?” I still wasn’t sure what he was getting at. So I continued. “Well, after some brief small talk I’ll launch into the interview. I’ll ask a question, my source will give an answer, then I’ll ask another question.”
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