Robert MacNeil

Robert Breckenridge Ware "Robin" MacNeil, OC (born January 19, 1931) is a Canadian-American journalist and writer. He is a retired television news anchor who partnered with Jim Lehrer to create The MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1975.

Robert MacNeil
Robert MacNeil accepting Cronkite Award.jpg
MacNeil accepting the 2008 Cronkite Award
Born
Robert Breckenridge Ware MacNeil

(1931-01-19) January 19, 1931 (age 89)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
NationalityCanadian-American
Alma materCarleton University
OccupationJournalist, novelist
Years active1956–present

Early life and educationEdit

MacNeil was born in Montreal, the son of Margaret Virginia (née Oxner) and Robert A. S. MacNeil.[1][2] He was brought up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, went to boarding school at Rothesay Collegiate School and Upper Canada College, then attended Dalhousie University and later graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1955.

CareerEdit

MacNeil began working in the news field at ITV in London, then for Reuters, and then for NBC News as a correspondent in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Kennedy assassinationEdit

On November 22, 1963, MacNeil was covering President John F. Kennedy's visit to Dallas for NBC News. After shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, MacNeil, who was with the presidential motorcade, followed crowds running onto the Grassy Knoll (he appears in a photo taken just moments after the assassination). He then headed towards the nearest building and encountered a man leaving the Texas School Book Depository. He asked the man where the nearest telephone was and the man pointed and went on his way. MacNeil later learned the man he encountered at about 12:33 pm. CST might have been Lee Harvey Oswald. This conclusion was made by historian William Manchester in his book The Death of a President (1967), who believed that Oswald, recounting the day's events to the Dallas Police, mistook MacNeil as a Secret Service agent because of his suit, blond crew cut, and press badge (which Oswald apparently mistook for government identification).

For his part, MacNeil says "it was possible, but I had no way of confirming that either of the young men I had spoken to was Oswald."[3] On the phone, MacNeil relayed the first report of the shooting to Jim Holton of NBC Radio, who recorded MacNeil's account of what had happened. MacNeil then headed to Parkland Hospital where he arranged a phone connection with Frank McGee, who was anchoring continuous coverage with Bill Ryan and Chet Huntley from NBC-TV in New York. At approximately 1:40 pm CST, MacNeil relayed to McGee that White House acting press secretary Malcolm Kilduff had made the official announcement that President Kennedy had died at 1:00 CST. That evening, MacNeil went to Dallas police headquarters and saw Oswald twice at close range, including when Oswald said "... [T]hey've taken me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy", but he did not recognize Oswald.[4]

News anchorEdit

In 1967, MacNeil began covering American and European politics for the BBC. From 1971 to 1974, he hosted the news discussion show Washington Week in Review on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). MacNeil rose to fame during his coverage of the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings with PBS, for which he later received an Emmy Award. This coverage of the hearings would help lead to and be the inspiration for his most famous news role, when he joined with Jim Lehrer in 1975 to create the PBS daily evening news program, The Robert MacNeil Report. This was later renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and then The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

After serving 20 years in the PBS flagship news program, MacNeil retired from his nightly appearances on October 20, 1995; his co-anchor, Jim Lerher anchored the program solo until 2011. The daily news program he co-founded continues today as the PBS NewsHour.

Post-retirement workEdit

In director Michael Almereyda's 2000 modern-day adaptation of Hamlet, MacNeil portrayed the Player King, re-imagined as a TV news reporter.

On September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Arlington County, Virginia, MacNeil called PBS and offered to help.[4] He joined PBS in its coverage of the attacks and their aftermath, interviewing reporters and giving his thoughts on the events of 9/11.[4]

In 2007, MacNeil hosted the PBS television miniseries America at a Crossroads, which presented independently produced documentaries concerning the "War on Terrorism". The series initially ran from April 15–20, with further episodes later that year.

In a Sesame Street Special Report, The Muppet Show parody of the Iran-Contra scandal, MacNeil investigated the "Cookiegate" incident involving the Cookie Monster.[5]

MacNeil served as the chairman of the board of directors of the MacDowell Colony from 1993 to 2010.[6] MacNeill was succeeded by Michael Chabon.[7]

Awards and honorsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

MacNeil became a naturalized American citizen in 1997.

He is the father of award-winning theatre scenic designer Ian MacNeil.[11]

BibliographyEdit

MacNeil has also written several books, many about his career as a journalist. Since his retirement from NewsHour, MacNeil has also dabbled in writing novels. His books include:

  • Breaking News (novel)
  • Burden of Desire (novel)
  • Eudora Welty: Seeing Black and White
  • Looking for My Country: Finding Myself in America
  • The People Machine: The Influence of Television on American Politics
  • The Right Place at the Right Time
  • The Voyage (novel)
  • The Way We Were: 1963, The Year Kennedy Was Shot
  • The Story of English with Robert McCrum (accompanied by a PBS documentary miniseries in 1986)
  • Wordstruck: A Memoir (Published 1989)
  • Do You Speak American? (accompanied by a PBS documentary miniseries in 2005)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Robert MacNeil Biography (1931–)
  2. ^ Looking for My Country
  3. ^ MacNeil, Robert. The Right Place at the Right Time. p. 213.
  4. ^ a b c MacNeil, Robert (2004). Looking for My Country: Finding Myself in America. Harvest Books. ISBN 978-0-15-602910-0.
  5. ^ Throwback Thursday: NewsHour’s visits to Sesame Street
  6. ^ MacDowell Colony Press Release, Chairman Robert MacNeil and President Carter Wiseman to Retire from MacDowell Leadership, April 15, 2010. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  7. ^ Carolyn Kellog (December 7, 2010), Michael Chabon named chairman of MacDowell Colony board, Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "Host Robert MacNeil Series Host". PBS.
  9. ^ "Paul White Award". Radio Television Digital News Association. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  10. ^ Arizona State University (January 29, 2009). "Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication". Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  11. ^ New York Times interview, May 5, 1994

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Position created
The Robert MacNeil Report / The MacNeil/Lehrer Report / The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour anchor
1975–1995
Served alongside: Jim Lehrer
Succeeded by
Jim Lehrer