Robert MacNeil

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For other people named Robert MacNeil, see Robert MacNeil (disambiguation).
Robert MacNeil
Born Robert Breckenridge Ware MacNeil
(1931-01-19) January 19, 1931 (age 83)
Montreal, Dominion of Canada
(now Montreal, Canada)
Nationality Canadian/American
Alma mater Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Occupation Journalist, novelist
Years active 1956–present

Robert Breckenridge Ware MacNeil, OC (born January 19, 1931), also known as Robin MacNeil, is a novelist, and former television news anchor and journalist who had paired with Jim Lehrer to create The MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1975.

Early life and education[edit]

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 Upper Canada College, then attended Dalhousie University and later graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1955.

Career[edit]

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 assassination[edit]

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 p.m. 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 "I'm just a patsy", but he did not recognize Oswald.[4]

News anchor[edit]

Beginning in 1967, MacNeil covered American and European politics for the BBC, and 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 helped lead to 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. The daily news program he co-founded continues today as the PBS NewsHour.

Post-retirement work[edit]

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 events.[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.[citation needed]

MacNeil is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the MacDowell Colony.[when?]

Awards and honors[edit]

Personal life[edit]

MacNeil became a naturalized American citizen in 1997.

He is the father of award-winning theatre scenic designer Ian MacNeil.[7]

Bibliography[edit]

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
  • Do You Speak American? (accompanied by a PBS documentary miniseries in 2005)

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.filmreference.com/film/15/Robert-MacNeil.html
  2. ^ http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780679312499&view=excerpt
  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. ^ "Host Robert MacNeil Series Host". PBS.org. 
  6. ^ "Paul White Award". Radio Television Digital News Association. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  7. ^ New York Times interview, May 5, 1994

External links[edit]

Preceded by
None
The Robert MacNeil Report/The MacNeil/Lehrer Report/The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour anchor
1975–1995
Succeeded by
Jim Lehrer as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer/PBS NewsHour
Notes and references
1. MacNeil co-anchored with Lehrer from 1975 to 1995.