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Robert MacNeil

From Academic Kids

Robert MacNeil (born January 19, 1931) is a television news anchor and journalist who paired with Jim Lehrer to create The MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1975.

Born in Montreal and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, MacNeil graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1955. MacNeil began working in the news field at ITV in London, then for Reuters and then for NBC as a correspondent in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Beginning in 1967, MacNeil also covered American and European politics for the BBC and has served as the host for the news dicussion show Washington Week in Review.

On November 22, 1963, MacNeil was covering Kennedy's visit to Dallas. After shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, MacNeil 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 p.m. was Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald, recounting the day's events to the Dallas police, described MacNeil as a Secret Service agent because of his suit, blond crew cut, and press badge (which Oswald apparently mistook for government identification). This conclusion was made by historian William Manchester in his book Death of a President (1967). 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." (The Right Place at the Right Time, p. 213)

MacNeil rose to fame during his coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings for PBS, which led to an Emmy Award. This helped lead to his most famous news role, where he worked with Jim Lehrer to create The Robert MacNeil Report with Jim Lehrer in 1975. This was later renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and then The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. MacNeil left the show in 1995.

On September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, he called PBS, asking if he could help them with their coverage of the attacks, as he recalled in his autobiography, Looking for My Country: Finding Myself in America. He helped PBS in its coverage of the attacks and the aftermath, interviewing reporters, and giving his thoughts on the attacks.

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

  • Breaking News
  • Burden of Desire
  • 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
  • The Way We Were: 1963, The Year Kennedy Was Shot
  • Wordstruck: A Memoir
  • Do You Speak American?
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