December 28, 2004 Robert MacNeil To Discuss His New Book On January 12

Press Contact: Bibi Martí, (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Center for the Book, (202) 707-5221

Celebrated journalist and author Robert MacNeil will discuss and sign his new book, "Do You Speak American?," a companion to his new PBS television series of the same name, at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12, in the sixth floor Montpelier Room of the Library's Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The presentation is part of the Center for the Book's "Books & Beyond" author series, which since 1996 has brought authors to the Library for presentations and discussions about their newly published books. The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.

"Do You Speak American?" ( Doubleday, 2005), the follow-up to MacNeil's award-winning 1986 documentary, "The Story of English," premieres nationally on Jan. 5, 2005, on PBS. The television series and the book describe the journey of MacNeil and William Cran, series producer and book co-author, across the United States to explore the many ways Americans speak English. The result is an entertaining report on the evolution and current state of our spoken and written language. In a series of interviews with native speakers, from the Northeast, through Appalachia and the Deep South and west to California, the authors gleaned insights about the linguistic quirks and traditions characteristic of Americans. Topics discussed include the influence of e-mail, the perceived decline of grammar and the potential divisiveness caused by ethnic and racial differences.

Born in Montreal and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Robert MacNeil graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa. His journalism career, which began with the Reuters News Agency in London, spans 40 years. In 1960 he entered the world of television as an NBC News London-based correspondent, covering such events as the fighting in the Belgian Congo, the civil war in Algeria, the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis. In 1963 he was transferred to NBC's Washington bureau where he helped cover the White House. He was the NBC News correspondent covering President Kennedy on the day he was assassinated in Dallas.

In 1971 MacNeil joined PBS, where he teamed with Jim Lehrer to co-anchor public television's Emmy-winning coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings. Their collaboration led to "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report," which was launched in October 1975 and devoted its nightly half-hour time slot to a single issue. Eight years later, "The Report" became "The NewsHour," the nation's first full hour of evening news, and went on to garner many awards. MacNeil retired from daily journalism in 1995.

Robert MacNeil is the author of several books, including "The Story of English," an international bestseller co-authored with William Cran and Robert McCrum; two volumes of memoir: "Wordstruck" and "Looking for My Country: Finding Myself in America"; and three novels.

The Center for the Book was created in 1977 to use the Library of Congress' resources to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about the center and the activities of its affiliates in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., visit the center’s Web site at


PR 04-212
ISSN 0731-3527