PBS Legend Robert MacNeil Dead at 93

The journalism world is mourning the loss of Robert MacNeil. The newscaster, who is known for PBS NewsHour, passed away on Friday at 93. He has covered some of the biggest national news, including JFK's assassination, and has interviewed Martin Luther King Jr., Fidel Castro, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His breakthrough came in 1973 with the primetime coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings.

Robert Breckenridge Ware MacNeil was born in Montreal on Jan. 19, 1931, and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Despite initially wanting to be an actor, after graduating from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1955, MacNeil set his sights on journalism, working at ITV in London, Reuters, and NBC News as a correspondent in D.C. and New York City.

MacNeil began covering for the BBC in 1967, hosting Washington Week in Review from 1971 to 1974 on PBS. Following the Senate Watergate hearings, the Emmy Award-winning newscaster teamed with Jim Lehrer, creating the daily evening news program The Robert MacNeil Report. It went through numerous iterations and name changes over the years, including The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, before becoming PBS NewsHour in 2009. MacNeil retired in 1995.

"Robin was one of a kind," PBS NewsHour co-anchors Geoff Bennett and Amna Nawaz shared. "With his distinctive voice, he brought stories to life — unraveling complex issues with clarity and compassion. Whether it was through his incisive reporting or his intimate interviews, he possessed a singular ability to connect with people. As we reflect on his many contributions, we honor his memory by continuing to pursue the truth and by fostering connections that bridge divides – just as Robin did with such grace and vigor. We are deeply grateful for the enduring legacy he leaves behind."

On top of his groundbreaking news reports, Robert MacNeil also wrote the 1992 novel Burden of Desire and other nonfiction titles, as well as three memoirs. MacNeil served as chairman of the MacDowell Artist Colony in New Hampshire for 17 years and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1999. He is survived by his four children, including theatre scenic designer Ian MacNeil.

"I am so deeply saddened at the loss of a precious friend. One of the greatest honors of my life was working with Robin MacNeil and being part of the way he and Jim Lehrer changed television news. He was brilliant and urbane, but always with a delightful sense of irony," Judy Woodruff, a senior correspondent and the former anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour said. "I'm so grateful to have spoken with him in January on his birthday when that iconic, deep Canadian baritone voice sounded exactly as it had when he last anchored the NewsHour almost 30 years ago."