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PBS NewsHour logo used since December 7, 2009.
|Also known as||
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original language(s)||English (US)|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original release||October 20, 1975– present|
The PBS NewsHour is an American daily evening television news program that is broadcast on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), airing seven nights a week on more than 350 of the public broadcaster's member stations. As the nation's first hour-long nightly news broadcast, the program is known for its in-depth coverage of issues and current events.
From August 2013 to October 2016, the program's weekday broadcasts—which run one hour in length and are produced by Washington, D.C. member station WETA-TV—had been co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Throughout their tenure, Ifill and Woodruff were the first and only all-female anchor team of a national nightly news program on broadcast television. Since its launch in September of that same year, the Saturday and Sunday editions of the program (titled as PBS NewsHour Weekend) – which runs for 30 minutes and are produced by New York City PBS member station WNET – had been anchored by Hari Sreenivasan.
The PBS NewsHour originates from WETA's studios in Arlington County, Virginia with additional facilities in San Francisco and Denver. It is a collaboration between WNET, WETA-TV, and fellow PBS member television stations KQED in San Francisco, KETC in St. Louis and WTTW in Chicago. The NewsHour Weekend is produced at the Tisch WNET studios on Lincoln Center, New York.
- 1 History
- 2 Production and ratings
- 3 Availability
- 4 International broadcasts
- 5 NewsHour editorial guidelines
- 6 Current on-air staff
- 7 Criticism
- 8 Scholarly analysis
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (1975–1983)
In 1973, Robert MacNeil (a former NBC News correspondent and at the time moderator of PBS' Washington Week in Review) 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.
This recognition led to the 1975 creation of The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour local news program for WNET, which debuted on October 20 of that year; each episode of the program covered a single issue currently in the news in depth. Less than 1½ months later on December 1, 1975, the program was renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and began to air on PBS stations nationwide. Most editions employed a two-anchor, two-city format, with MacNeil based in New York City and Lehrer based at WETA's studios in Arlington. In September 1981, production of the program was taken over by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a partnership between MacNeil, Lehrer and the Gannett Company; the latter would sell its stake in the production company in 1986. Liberty Media bought a 67% controlling equity stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1994, but MacNeil and Lehrer retained editorial control.
The NewsHour (1983–2009)
On September 5, 1983, having decided to start competing with the nightly news programs on the Big Three television networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – instead of complementing them, the program was expanded to one hour and incorporated other changes such as the introduction of "documentary reportage from the field"; it became known at that time as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.
Robert MacNeil retired from the program on October 20, 1995, leaving Jim Lehrer as sole anchor. Accordingly, the program was renamed The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer three days later on October 23. The NewsHour won a Peabody Award in 2003 for the feature report Jobless Recovery: Non-Working Numbers.
On May 17, 2006, the program underwent its first major change in presentation in years, adopting a new graphics package and a reorchestrated version of the show's theme music (originally composed by Bernard Hoffer). On December 17, 2007, 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), with the broadcasts presented in a letterboxed format for viewers with standard-definition television sets watching either through cable or satellite television. The program also introduced a new set and upconverted its existing graphics package to HD.
Departure of Jim Lehrer and switch to co-anchors (2009–2013)
On May 11, 2009, PBS announced that the program would be revamped on December 7 of that year under a revised title as the PBS NewsHour. 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. 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.
Lehrer formally ended his tenure as a regular anchor of the program in June 2011. He continued to occasionally anchor on Fridays afterward, when he usually leads the political analysis segment with Mark Shields and David Brooks.
Transfer of production and expansion to weekends (2013–present)
On August 6, 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named as co-anchors and co-managing editors of the NewsHour broadcast. The two shared anchor duties on the Monday through Thursday editions, with Woodruff solo anchoring on Fridays due to Ifill's duties as host of the political discussion program Washington Week (which first airs on most PBS stations on Friday evenings).
For much of its history, the PBS NewsHour aired only on Monday through Friday evenings; however on September 7, 2013, the program expanded to include weekend editions on Saturday and Sundays, with Hari Sreenivasan serving as anchor of those broadcasts. Although the weekend broadcasts are branded PBS NewsHour Weekend, those editions 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. Plans for a weekend edition of PBS NewsHour had been considered as early as March 2013.
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." 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.
On July 20, 2015, the PBS NewsHour introduced an overhauled visual appearance for its weekday broadcasts, debuting a new minimalistic set designed by Eric Siegel and George Allison, which heavily incorporates PBS' longtime "Everyman" logo. The program also introduced a new graphics package by Troika Design Group and an original theme music composition by Edd Kalehoff, which incorporates a reorchestration of the nine-note "Question and Answer" musical signature that has been featured within the program's theme since its premiere in 1975. PBS NewsHour Weekend retained its graphics package that had been used since the launch of the Saturday and Sunday editions, as well as the theme music by David Cebert until August 29, 2015, when the program transitioned to the same theme music and graphics package as the weekday NewsHour broadcasts.
Production and ratings
The program is notable for being shown on public television. As such, there are no interruptions during the program to run advertisements (though like most public television programs, it does feature "corporate image" advertisements at the beginning and end of each broadcasts, as well as barker interruptions extolling viewers to donate pledges to their local PBS member station or member network during locally produced pledge drive events).
The program has a more deliberate pace than the news broadcasts of the commercial networks it competes against, allowing for deeper detail in its story packages and feature segments. At the start of the program, the lead story is covered in depth, followed by a news summary that lasts roughly between six and eight minutes, briefly explaining many of the top national and international news headlines; international stories often include excerpts of reports filed by ITN correspondents. This is usually followed by three or four longer news segments – typically running six to 12 minutes each – which explore a few of the events previously mentioned in the headline segment in depth and include discussions with experts, newsmakers, and/or commentators. The program formerly included a reflective essay on a regular basis, but these have been curtailed in recent years. On Fridays, the program features political analysis and 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 or Brooks are absent have included David Gergen, Thomas Oliphant, Rich Lowry, William Kristol, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ruth Marcus, Michael Gerson, David Corn and E.J. Dionne (also he and Brooks are on All Things Considered on NPR).
The program's senior correspondents are Margaret Warner (Foreign Affairs), Jeffrey Brown (Arts, Culture & Society) and Judy Woodruff (currently as anchor & senior managing editor). Essayists have included Anne Taylor Fleming, Richard Rodriguez, Clarence Page and Roger Rosenblatt. Correspondents have been Tom Bearden, Betty Ann Bowser, Susan Dentzer, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Kwame Holman, Spencer Michels, Fred de Sam Lazaro (on the Agents For Change series), the economics correspondent Paul Solman (Making Sen$e), Malcolm Brabant and others.
Former NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer and the late senior correspondent, managing editor and co-anchor Gwen Ifill were frequent moderators of U.S. political debates. By November 2008, Lehrer had moderated more than ten debates between major U.S. presidential candidates. 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.
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 8 million individuals watch in the course of a week.
The NewsHour is broadcast on more than 350 PBS member stations and networks, making it available to 99% of the viewing public, and audio from the program is broadcast by some NPR radio stations. It is also rebroadcast twice daily in late night via American Public Television's World digital subchannel service. Broadcasts of the NewsHour are also made available worldwide via satellites operated by various agencies such as the 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 is also released in podcast form, available through several feeds on the NewsHour's subscriptions page with link to a FeedBurner website (for free mp3 download) and through the iTunes Store.
Only a small handful of PBS member stations and networks do not air the NewsHour, a pool of stations mainly confined to 'secondary' stations which share another market with a 'primary' PBS member station. These include the NJTV network in New Jersey, as WNET, which co-manages NJTV and WLIW, carries it in the New York area, while WHYY-TV does so in the Philadelphia market; KVCR-DT in San Bernardino, California (KOCE-TV carries it as San Bernardino is within the Los Angeles market), and Chicago-area stations WYCC and Northwest Indiana-serving WYIN, due to WTTW's PBS primacy. In Boston, WGBH-TV airs live on weeknights (simulcast online), while their secondary station WGBX airs weeknights as a replay, and weekends live. KQED in San Francisco, airs weeknights simulcast with the radio, at 3:00 pm PST (6:00 pm EST).
- In the United Kingdom it is seen daily at 6am on ABN TV on the Sky (United Kingdom) platform.
- In the Middle East the program is seen daily on OSN News.
- In Australia the program is seen Tuesdays through Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. AEST on SBS One.
- In New Zealand the NewsHour is seen Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Face TV (Auckland).
- In Japan the program is seen every weekday on NHK BS-1.
- Around the world for members of the United States Armed Forces on the American Forces Network.
- The program is seen internationally through the Voice of America and World Radio Network.
The PBS NewsHour is streamed live via USTREAM and YouTube every weeknight at 6 pm ET. The NewsHour Weekend is also streamed on USTREAM only, every weekend live at 5 pm ET. Full episodes are available later edited without sponsorship on the NewsHour YouTube channel. In addition, The NewsHour streamed the Inauguration of Donald Trump via Twitter.
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." 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."
Current on-air staff
- Hari Sreenivasan
- Alison Stewart (substitute)
- Lisa Desjardins (substitute)
- William Brangham (substitute)
- Soledad O'Brien (substitute)
- Megan Thompson (substitute)
- Margaret Warner – chief foreign affairs correspondent
- Jeffrey Brown – chief correspondent for arts, culture, and society
- Paul Solman – business, economics and occasional art correspondent, creator of Making Sen$e
- Miles O'Brien – science & aviation correspondent
- Mike Taibbi – special correspondent for the Weekend program
- John Yang – special correspondent
- Malcolm Brabant – special correspondent, especially reporting from Europe, based in Denmark
- Lisa Desjardins – Political director
- P.J. Tobia – Foreign affairs editor
- Fred de Sam Lazaro – Correspondent for the Agents For Change series
- William Brangham
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 percent of U.S.–based sources. 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.
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.
Jill Stein interview
On August 23, 2016, Green Party nominee Jill Stein interviewed with the network. The program was later accused of censorship for cutting off many of Stein's criticisms, especially against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
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. However, their methodology has been questioned.
Partnership with NPR
The PBS NewsHour partnered with NPR for the broadcast of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of 2016, in a strategy to prepare for the election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
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- Official website
- PBS NewsHour at the Wayback Machine (archived May 8, 1999)
- PBS NewsHour at the Wayback Machine (archived June 5, 1997)