Robin McNeil leaves the Celebration of Life Memorial ceremony for Walter Cronkite, Wed. Aug. 9, 2009 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York.
New York CNN  — 

Longtime broadcast journalist Robert MacNeil, who covered some of the biggest headlines of the 20th century and co-anchored PBS nightly news for two decades, died on Friday, PBS announced. He was 93.

MacNeil “was an incredibly erudite reporter, anchor and writer who raised the bar for serious journalism in America,” Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president of NewsHour Productions, said Friday in a news release. “Principled, incisive and tenacious, he and Jim Lehrer set the high standards for NewsHour journalism that remain the core ethos of the program to this day.”

A native of Montreal, Canada, MacNeil was raised in Nova Scotia and began his television career as a London-based correspondent for NBC in 1960, according to public broadcaster WETA. He reported on international stories such as the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis before shifting to a US-based role out of Washington, DC. In November 1963, he was covering President John F. Kennedy in Dallas the day the president was assassinated, according to WETA.

Arriving at PBS in the early 1970’s, MacNeil began a decades-long partnership with fellow journalist Jim Lehrer, according to PBS. The two led PBS coverage of the Senate’s Watergate Hearings in 1973. In 1975, the pair co-founded the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, a show that would later become PBS NewsHour. The broadcast won more than 30 journalism awards in its two-decade-long run, including two Emmys and a 1994 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Award for congressional reporting, according to PBS and WETA.

MacNeil sat at the helm alongside Lehrer before leaving in 1995, according to PBS.

In his farewell address to audiences, he thanked viewers and public television “for the opportunity you’ve given me to work in a manner I could be proud of when I went home every night.”

After his retirement, he returned to PBS periodically to assist with special coverage. One of his many books, “Do You Speak American?” which detailed the development of English in the United States, was turned into a PBS documentary in 2005.

Holding a reputation for unimpeachable journalistic integrity, MacNeil was known for refusing to play into sensationalist news practices and is often considered a quintessential hallmark of American broadcast media culture prior to the relaxation of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and the factionalism of today’s news media.

Reflecting on his career at the 2005 Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, MacNeil said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen (regarding nightly news). They have got fluffier and often sillier and certainly softer under the pressure from cable news. The future is a bit uncertain … it’s such a different context for television news than it used to be 40 years ago when I first began.”