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PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour[1]
The logo of the relaunch of PBS NewsHour from December 7, 2009
Also known as PBS NewsHour Weekend
Created by Robert MacNeil
Jim Lehrer
Directed by Joseph Camp (Washington) Eulogio Ortiz (New York)
Presented by Gwen Ifill
Hari Sreenivasan
Judy Woodruff
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Sara Just
Location(s) WETA-TV studios, Arlington, Virginia (weekday editions)
WNET studios, New York City (weekend editions)
Running time 60 minutes (Weekday)
30 minutes (Weekend)
Production company(s) WETA-TV/NewsHour Productions
Original channel PBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release October 20, 1975 – Present
External links

The PBS NewsHour is an American evening television news program that is broadcast seven nights a week on more than 300 PBS stations.

The weekday program is one hour-long. It is co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, at present, the only two women leading a national nightly news program on broadcast.[2] It is produced by WETA-TV, the flagship public media station for Washington, D.C.. PBS NewsHour Weekend is 30 minutes long. It is anchored by Hari Sreenivasan, and produced by New York PBS member station WNET. As the nation's first hour-long broadcast of nightly news, the PBS NewsHour is known for its in-depth coverage of issues and current events.


In 1973, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer teamed up to cover the United States Senate Watergate hearings for PBS. The two earned an Emmy Award for their unprecedented, gavel-to-gavel coverage.[3]

This recognition led to the 1975 creation of The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour local news program for New York City PBS member station WNET that debuted on October 20 of that year, each episode of which covered a single issue in-depth. A few months later on December 1, 1975, the program was renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and began to be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide. On most episodes, MacNeil would anchor from New York City while Lehrer would anchor from Washington, DC (Arlington, Virginia). In September 1981, production of the program was taken over by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a partnership of MacNeil, Lehrer, and Gannett Company; in 1986, Gannett sold its stake in the company. Liberty Media bought a 67% stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1994, giving it a controlling interest, though MacNeil and Lehrer retained editorial control.[4]

On September 5, 1983, having decided to start competing with the nightly news programs on the Big Three television networksABC, CBS and NBC – instead of complementing them, the program was extended to an hour in length and incorporated other changes such as the introduction of "documentary reportage from the field";[5] it became known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. On October 20, 1995, MacNeil retired as co-anchor of the program, with Lehrer becoming the program's solo anchor; the program was renamed The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer three days later on October 23.[6]

The NewsHour won a Peabody Award in 2003 for Jobless Recovery: Non-Working Numbers.[7]

File:NewsHour HD.jpg
The final The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer logo from May 17, 2006, to December 6, 2009.

On May 17, 2006, the program underwent its first major change in presentation in years, adopting a new graphics package and a new version of the show's theme music.[citation needed] On December 17, 2007,[8] the NewsHour became the second nightly broadcast network newscast to begin broadcasting in high definition, following NBC Nightly News, which switched to HD in March of that year. The difference between this broadcast and Nightly News is that the NewsHour was shown in a letterboxed format for those with standard-definition television sets. The switch came with the existing graphics being upconverted to HD and the introduction of a new set.

On May 11, 2009, it was reported that The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer would be revamped on December 7, 2009[9] and be retitled as the PBS NewsHour.[1] In addition to an increased integration between the NewsHour website and nightly broadcast, the updated production would feature co-anchors, as had been the practice until Robert MacNeil's 1995 departure from the program.[10] The overhaul was described by Jim Lehrer as the first phase in his gradual move toward retirement.

On September 27, 2010, PBS NewsHour was presented with the Chairman's Award at the 31st News & Documentary Emmy Awards, with Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, longtime executive producer Les Crystal, and former executive producer Linda Winslow receiving the award on the show's behalf.[11]

Lehrer formally ended his time as a regular anchor of the program in June 2011. He continues to occasionally host on Fridays, when he usually leads the political analysis segment with Mark Shields and David Brooks.[12]

File:Judy Woodruff interviews Chuck Hagel for PBS NewsHour.jpg
Judy Woodruff interviewing US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in September 2013

For much of its history, PBS NewsHour only aired Monday through Fridays; however, on September 7, 2013, the program expanded to include weekend editions on Saturday and Sunday evenings, anchored by Hari Sreenivasan. Although the weekend broadcasts are branded PBS NewsHour Weekend, they instead air for a half-hour; in addition, the Saturday and Sunday editions originate from the New York City studios of WNET, as opposed to the program's main production facilities at the Arlington, Virginia studios of WETA-TV.[13][14] Plans for a weekend edition of PBS NewsHour had been considered as early as March 2013.[15]

On August 6, 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named as co-anchors and co-managing editors of the NewsHour broadcast. The two will share anchor duties on the Monday through Thursday editions, with Woodruff solo anchoring on Fridays.[16]

MacNeil/Lehrer Productions announced in a letter to the show's staffers on October 8, 2013 that it had offered to transfer ownership in the PBS NewsHour to WETA. In the letter, Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil cited their reduced involvement with the program's production since their departures from anchoring, as well as "the probability of increasing our fundraising abilities."[17][18] The transfer was approved by the WETA board of trustees on June 17, 2014, and took effect on July 1; at that time, production of the program was taken over by NewsHour Productions, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of WETA. WETA also acquired MacNeil/Lehrer Productions' archives, documentaries, and projects, though not the company's name. PBS NewsHour Weekend was not affected by the ownership transfer and continues to be produced by WNET.[4]

Production and ratings

Behind the scenes at The Newshour, during a Gen. Peter Pace interview.

The NewsHour is notable for being run on public television; there are no interruptions for advertisements (though there are "corporate-image" advertisements at the beginning and end of the show and interruptions to call for pledges during public television pledge drives).

The program has a more deliberate pace than the news broadcasts of the commercial networks it competes against. At the start of the program, the lead story is covered in depth, followed by a news summary that lasts a few minutes, briefly explaining many of the headlines around the world. International stories often include excerpts of reports filed by ITN correspondents. This is usually followed by three or four longer news segments, typically running 6–12 minutes each. These segments explore a few of the headline events in-depth. The segments include discussions with experts, newsmakers, and/or commentators. The program used to regularly include a reflective essay, but these have been curtailed more recently. On Fridays, there is a political analysis discussion between two regular contributors, one from each of the Republican and Democratic parties, and one host from among the senior correspondents. Since 2004, the usual participants have been syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Analysts who fill in when Shields and/or Brooks are absent have included David Gergen, Thomas Oliphant, Rich Lowry, William Kristol, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ruth Marcus, Michael Gerson, and E. J. Dionne.

The program's senior correspondents are Gwen Ifill, Margaret Warner, Jeffrey Brown, and Judy Woodruff. Essayists have included Anne Taylor Fleming, Richard Rodriguez, Clarence Page, and Roger Rosenblatt.[19] Correspondents have been Tom Bearden, Betty Ann Bowser, Susan Dentzer, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Kwame Holman, Spencer Michels, Fred de Sam Lazaro, Paul Solman, and others.[20]

Former NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer and current anchor and senior correspondent Gwen Ifill are frequent moderators of U.S. political debates. By November 2008, Lehrer had moderated more than ten debates between major U.S. presidential candidates.[21] In 2008, Ifill moderated a debate between U.S. vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin; in 2004, Ifill moderated a debate between candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards.[22]

After the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the NewsHour began what it called its "Honor Roll", a short segment displaying in silence the picture, name, rank, and hometown of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq. On January 4, 2006, the NewsHour added military personnel killed in Afghanistan to the segment.

According to Nielsen ratings at the program's website, 2.7 million people watch the program each night, and eight million individuals watch in the course of a week. The NewsHour is broadcast on more than 300 PBS member stations, making it available to 99% of the viewing public, and audio is broadcast by some National Public Radio stations. Broadcasts are also made available worldwide via satellites operated by various agencies such as Voice of America. Archives of shows broadcast after February 7, 2000 are available in several streaming media formats (including full-motion video) at the program's website. The show is available to overseas military personnel on the American Forces Network. Audio from select segments are also released in podcast form, available through several feeds on PBS's subscriptions page and through the iTunes Store. The program originates from Arlington, Virginia with additional facilities in San Francisco, California and Denver, Colorado,[23] and is a collaboration between PBS member television stations WNET in New York City, WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., and KQED in San Francisco.

NewsHour editorial guidelines

On December 4, 2009, when introducing the new PBS NewsHour format, Jim Lehrer read out a list of guidelines in what he referred to as "MacNeil / Lehrer journalism."[24] They are as follows:

  • "Do nothing I cannot defend."
  • "Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me."
  • "Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story."
  • "Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am."
  • "Assume the same about all people on whom I report."
  • "Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise."
  • "Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything."
  • "Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions."
  • "No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously."
  • "And finally, I am not in the entertainment business."

On-air staff

This is a list of the anchors and correspondents for PBS NewsHour:


Critics have accused the American news media – including the NewsHour – of having a pro-establishment bias.

In 1992, radio broadcaster David Barsamian called the NewsHour "stenographers to power."[25]

FAIR study

In October 2006, the media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) accused the NewsHour of lacking balance, diversity, and viewpoints of the general public, and corporate viewpoints. FAIR found that the NewsHour‍ '​s guest list from October 2005 to March 2006 had Republicans outnumbering Democrats 2:1, and people of color accounting for 15% of U.S.-based sources.[26] FAIR also protested in 1995 when Liberty Media purchased a majority of the program, citing Liberty's majority owner, John Malone, for his "Machiavellian business tactics" and right-wing sentiments.[27]

NewsHour executive producer Linda Winslow responded to many aspects:

FAIR seems to be accusing us of covering the people who make decisions that affect people's lives, many of whom work in government, the military, or corporate America. That's what we do: we're a news program, and that's who makes news... I take issue with the way the FAIR report characterizes each guest, which they have obviously done very subjectively. Witness the trashing of Mark Shields and Tom Oliphant (in the full report), who are not liberal enough for FAIR's taste. When you get down to arguing about degrees of left-and-rightness, I think you undermine your own argument.

She also accused FAIR of counting sound bites as interviews, thereby skewing their numbers toward the political party holding a majority (at the time of FAIR's report, Republican Party).[28]

Scholarly analysis

In 2003, UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose and Missouri economist Jeff Milyo evaluated various media programs based on "think tank" citations to map liberal versus conservative media slants and published a study alleging liberal media bias in general. Based on their research, PBS NewsHour is the most centrist news program on television and the closest to a truly objective stance.[29][30] However, their methodology has been questioned.[31]

International broadcasts


  1. ^ a b Jensen, Elizabeth (2009-05-11). "‘NewsHour’ on PBS to Get Makeover". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  2. ^ "Ifil and Woodruff named as co-anchors". PBS Newshour. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "About US". PBS NewsHour. 
  4. ^ a b Sefton, Dru (June 18, 2014). "WETA to create subsidiary for transfer of PBS NewsHour ownership". Current. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  5. ^ "No Blaring: MacNeil on Emmy, Keeping a Reasonable Tone in Broadcast News". PBS. September 27, 2010. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  6. ^ a b "NewsHour History". MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  7. ^ 63rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2004.
  8. ^ LeGro, Tom. "NewsHour High-Definition Broadcast FAQ". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Kurtz, Howard (November 30, 2009). "PBS, changing 'NewsHour' to preserve it". The Washington Post ( pp. C01. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  11. ^ "The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces Winners...". National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. September 27, 2010. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  12. ^ "Jim Lehrer to retire as PBS NewsHour anchor". The Spy Report (Media Spy). May 13, 2010. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  13. ^ Kevin Day, Patrick (June 17, 2013). "PBS' 'NewsHour' to expand to weekends in the fall". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ Weigner, Mackenzie (June 17, 2013). "PBS NewsHour Weekend to premiere this fall". Politico. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  15. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (March 4, 2013). "PBS Near a Decision on Adding a Weekend Edition of ‘NewsHour’". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff to co-anchor 'NewsHour'". Associated Press. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Sefton, Dru (October 9, 2013). "MacNeil, Lehrer propose to transfer ownership of PBS NewsHour to WETA". Current. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  18. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (October 8, 2013). "‘NewsHour’ Ex-Anchors to Cede Ownership". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Essays archive". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  20. ^ "Correspondents". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  21. ^ "Jim Lehrer: The Dean of Moderators". MSNBC. September 29, 2004. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  22. ^ Suddath, Claire (October 2, 2008). "Debate Moderator Gwen Ifill". Time. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  23. ^ "Contact Us". MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  24. ^ Another Chapter Begins for NewsHour Jim Lehrer. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, December 4, 2009.
  25. ^ David Barsamian, Stenographers to Power: Media and Propaganda (Common Courage P, 1992), 105.
  26. ^ Rendall, Steve; Hollar, Julie (September–October 2006). "Are You on the NewsHour's Guestlist? PBS flagship news show fails public mission". FAIR. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  27. ^ "MacNeil/Lehrer Sells Out, Extra! Update February 1995". Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  28. ^ Getler, Michael (October 6, 2006). "A FAIR Analysis? By Michael Getler October 6, 2006". PBS. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  29. ^ Groseclose, Tim (2011). How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-55593-1. 
  30. ^ Jackson, Brad (August 10, 2011). "Left Turn: The Media’s Institutional Liberalism". The New Ledger. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  31. ^ "The problems with the Groseclose/Milyo study of media bias". Brendan Nyhan. 2005-12-22. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  32. ^ Meade, Amanda (August 4, 2011). "Al Jazeera news for SBS". The Australian. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Triangle TV Programme Information: PBS NewsHour". Triangle Television. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 

External links