Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Lehrer reminds me to ask: In the digital age, what connects us across cyberspace?


I first heard Jim Lehrer give the Victoria bus call at a Harvard commencement address in 2006. Little did I know then his call would lead me to my new home.

If you care at all about journalism's role in democracy, you're a fan of Jim Lehrer. His speech at Harvard provided a perfect ending to my amazing year as a Nieman fellow. Here's what I blogged then about Lehrer's speech:

"Lehrer described American society as more disconnected than he has ever seen it and called for a national service. ... I share some of Lehrer’s concerns about society fragmenting. A community newspaper, at its best, connects people. In the digital age, what connects us across cyberspace?"

That question came to mind again as Lehrer spoke so vividly and emotionally about his brief time in Victoria. In Advocate reporter Erica Rodriguez's well-crafted story Saturday, Lehrer recalls the Victoria College dean's fight to get the young student accepted into the University of Missouri journalism school. Lehrer's fondness for and friendships in Victoria run deep.

Erica, a promising young reporter, and I chatted briefly about why Lehrer would still hold so dear a place he left almost 60 years ago. At the risk of being too metaphysical, I suggest it's because you feel deeply the connections surrounding this historic town.

At a reception in the home of history professor Mike Hummel, Lehrer encouraged me to let him know how the Advocate is faring in the digital age of blogs, Tweets and online comments. He was excited to learn a newspaper broadcast his speech live on the Internet, aired its morning news meetings and produced a show called the Advocast (which features a special report on Lehrer this Monday). He suggested the Advocate could be a model for others to follow through the digital revolution.

I reached out and lightly touched Advocate co-owner Kay McHaney, telling Lehrer that she was the model. He instantly picked up on that reference and quoted famed Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee talking about another Kay -- Katharine Graham. "What do you need to make a great paper?" Lehrer said, using a gruff voice to channel Bradlee. "A great owner."

If that's so, the Advocate's future is secure on any media platform.


Advocate vice president Dan Easton snapped this picture using my iPhone, prompting Lehrer to joke about the days when people had cameras. Dan, a software engineer by training, is a member of the third-generation of Advocate family ownership who also makes me feel good about the newspaper's future.