PBS NewsHour is an American evening television news program broadcast on over 350 PBS member stations. It airs seven nights a week, and is known for its in-depth coverage of issues and current events.
|Also known as|
|Presented by||Weekdays: |
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Picture format||NTSC (1975–2007)|
HDTV 1080i (2007–present)
|Original release||October 20, 1975 –|
Anchored by Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett, the program's weekday broadcasts run for one hour and are produced by WETA-TV in Washington, D.C. On Saturdays and Sundays, PBS distributes a 30-minute edition of the program, PBS News Weekend, anchored by John Yang; originally produced in New York City by WNET, production of the weekend broadcasts transferred to WETA in April 2022.
The PBS NewsHour originates from WETA's studio facilities in Arlington County, Virginia; news updates inserted into the weekday broadcasts targeted for the Western United States, online, and late-night viewers originate from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Additional production facilities for the program are based in San Francisco and Denver. The program is a collaboration between WETA-TV, WNET, and fellow PBS member stations KQED in San Francisco, KETC in St. Louis and WTTW in Chicago.
In September 1981, production of the program was taken over by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a partnership between Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, and Gannett; the latter sold its stake in the production company in 1986. John C. Malone's Liberty Media bought a 67% controlling equity stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1994, but MacNeil and Lehrer retained editorial control. In 2014, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, owned by MacNeil, Lehrer, and Liberty Media announced its donation, as NewsHour Productions LLC, to WETA-TV as a nonprofit subsidiary.
| The Robert MacNeil Report; 19; New York City and C367 Bailout, segment starts at 2:45, |
November 13, 1975,
NewsHour Productions and American Archive of Public Broadcasting
In 1973, Robert MacNeil (a former NBC News correspondent and then-moderator of PBS's Washington Week in Review) and Jim Lehrer teamed up to cover the United States Senate's Watergate hearings for PBS. They earned an Emmy Award for their unprecedented gavel-to-gavel coverage.
This recognition led to the creation of The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour local news program on WNET, which debuted on October 20, 1975; each episode of the program covered a single issue in depth. On December 1, 1975, the program began to air on PBS stations nationwide. It was renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report on September 6, 1976. Most editions employed a two-anchor, two-city format, with MacNeil based in New York City and Lehrer at WETA's studios in Arlington, Virginia. Charlayne Hunter-Gault joined the series as correspondent in 1978, serving as substitute host for MacNeil and Lehrer whenever either had the night off. She became the series’ national correspondent in 1983.
Having decided to start competing with the nightly news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC instead of complementing them, the program expanded to one hour on September 5, 1983, incorporating other changes, such as the introduction of "documentary reportage from the field"; it became known at that time as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Lester Crystal was its founding executive producer. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions twice planned to launch late-night newscasts in 1995 and 1999; in both instances, the proposed expansions—which, respectively, were to have involved production and newsgathering partnerships with Wall Street Journal Television and The New York Times—were canceled mid-development.
MacNeil retired from the program on October 20, 1995, leaving Lehrer as the sole anchor. (Hunter-Gault left in June 1997.) Accordingly, the program was renamed The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on October 23. On January 16, 1996, The NewsHour announced the creation of its official website at PBS Online. The NewsHour won a Peabody Award in 2003 for the feature report Jobless Recovery: Non-Working Numbers. On May 17, 1999, The NewsHour adopted a new graphics package, but refreshed the music from 1983. On October 4, 1999, Gwen Ifill joined The NewsHour team as a new correspondent. She was a female anchor of a national nightly news program on broadcast television. Effective January 17, 2000, The NewsHour added "America Online Keyword: PBS" to its ending screen for a three-year agreement through April 22, 2003. For only the website, the program took effect on April 23, 2003. On March 3, 2003, the program added dates from the 1999 graphics in the beginning. On November 17, 2003, The NewsHour added music in the beginning with dates.
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 its 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 (after NBC Nightly News on March 26, 2007), with broadcasts in a letterboxed format for viewers with standard-definition television sets watching via either cable or satellite television. The program also introduced a new set and converted its graphics package to HD.
On May 11, 2009, PBS announced that the program would be revamped on December 7 of that year under a revised title, the PBS NewsHour. In addition to increased integration between the NewsHour website and nightly broadcast, the updated production returned to a two-anchor format. Lehrer described the overhaul as the first phase in his move toward retirement.
On September 27, 2010, PBS NewsHour was presented with the Chairman's Award at the 31st News & Documentary Emmy Awards, with MacNeil, Lehrer, 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 on June 6, 2011. He continued to occasionally anchor on Fridays, when he usually led the political analysis segment with Mark Shields and David Brooks, until December 30, 2011.
On August 6, 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors and co-managing editors of the NewsHour. They shared anchor duties on the Monday through Thursday editions, with Woodruff anchoring solo on Fridays due to Ifill's duties as host of the political discussion program Washington Week, which was also produced Friday evenings.
For much of its history, the PBS NewsHour aired only Monday through Friday, but in March 2013, plans to expand the program to include Saturday and Sunday editions were under development. Weekend editions of the NewsHour premiered on September 7, 2013, with Hari Sreenivasan serving as anchor. Although they aired for a half-hour, the weekend broadcasts were branded PBS NewsHour Weekend for the duration of WNET’s involvement with the program. From the weekend broadcasts' debut until the March 27, 2022 edition, the Saturday and Sunday editions originated from the Tisch/WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, as opposed to the program's main production facilities at the Arlington, Virginia, studios of WETA-TV.
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, Lehrer and 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." WETA's board of trustees approved the transfer on June 17, 2014, and it took effect on July 1. At that time, NewsHour Productions, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of WETA, took over production of the program. 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 continued to be produced by WNET.
On July 20, 2015, the PBS NewsHour introduced an overhauled visual appearance for its weekday broadcasts, debuting a new minimalist set designed by Eric Siegel and George Allison that heavily incorporates PBS's longtime "Everyman" logo. The program also introduced a new graphics package by Troika Design Group and original theme music by Edd Kalehoff, which incorporates a reorchestration of the nine-note "Question and Answer" musical signature that has been featured in the program's theme since its premiere in 1975 and a musical signature originally incorporated into the Kalehoff-composed theme for the Nightly Business Report used from 2002 to 2010. PBS NewsHour Weekend retained its original graphics package and the theme music by David Cebert until August 29, 2015, when it transitioned to the same theme music and a reworked version of the graphics package used for the weekday broadcasts.
Ifill took brief breaks from her NewsHour anchor duties in the late spring and in November 2016 (and was also absent from the program's presidential election coverage on November 8), as she had been undergoing treatment for advanced stage breast and endometrial cancer. After her death was announced on November 14, 2016, that evening's edition of the PBS NewsHour was dedicated to Ifill and her influence on journalism, featuring tributes from Woodruff, Sreenivasan, former colleagues and program contributors (news content was relegated to the standard news summary, which aired during the second half-hour). Although the program initially featured guest anchors on some editions between January and March 2017, Woodruff went on to become sole anchor.
On October 14, 2019, PBS NewsHour launched "PBS NewsHour West", a Western United States bureau at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix. Anchored by Stephanie Sy, the bureau produces its own news summary with up-to-date information on events that develop after the original broadcast. A version of the program with this summary is shown to viewers in the Western United States and to online and East Coast viewers watching re-broadcasts.
On April 2, 2022, WETA assumed production responsibilities for the NewsHour's Saturday and Sunday editions, which concurrently began originating from the studio at the station’s Washington facility used for the weekday broadcasts. The broadcasts were retitled PBS News Weekend, omitting "NewsHour" in view of their shorter duration. NewsHour Productions transferred production of the weekend broadcasts from WNET in a move to streamline the program's production and news-gathering resources, allowing the weekday and weekend NewsHour broadcasts to have the same pool of correspondents and to share resources with Washington Week (which is also produced by WETA-TV). Coinciding with the move, the weekend editions began carrying feature segments covering culture and the arts. Sreenivasan (who remains a New York-based correspondent for the weekday broadcasts and serves as a contributor for the PBS news discussion program Amanpour & Company) was replaced as weekend anchor by NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Geoff Bennett. As of December 31, 2022, John Yang anchors the weekend program.
On May 13, 2022, Woodruff announced to NewsHour staffers that she would step down as anchor at the end of the year, though she intends to continue reporting longer pieces for the program while doing projects and specials for WETA through the 2024 United States presidential election at the earliest. Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett were named Woodruff's successors. Woodruff made her final broadcast as anchor on December 30, 2022. Nawaz and Bennett anchored their first broadcast as co-anchors on January 2, 2023.
The program is notable for being shown on public television. There are no interruptions for advertisements (though like most public television programs, there are "corporate image" advertisements at the beginning and end of each broadcast, as well as barker interruptions asking viewers to donate to their local PBS member station or member network during locally produced pledge drives, which are replaced by encore presentations of a select story segment from the past year for stations that not holding a drive during that time).
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 twelve minutes, which explore a few of the events 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; since Woodruff and Ifill became anchors, these essays have mainly aired as part of the end-of-show segment "Brief, but Spectacular".
On Fridays, the program features political analysis and discussion between two regular contributors, one from each of the Republican Party and Democratic parties, and one host from among the senior correspondents. Since January 2021, the usual participants have been Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart and The New York Times columnist David Brooks. Analysts who fill in when Capehart 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. On Mondays, a similar segment, "Politics Monday", features analysis and discussion of political issues with contributors Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, and Tamara Keith, Washington, D.C. correspondent for NPR.
The program's senior correspondents are Woodruff and Jeffrey Brown (Arts, Culture & Society). 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, the economics correspondent Paul Solman (Making Sen$e), Malcolm Brabant and others.
Lehrer and 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, she moderated a debate between candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards.
On March 31, 2003, after the U.S.–led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the PBS 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, military personnel killed in Afghanistan were added to the segment. According to Nielsen ratings at the program's website, 2.7 million people watch the program each night, and 8 million watch in the course of a week. PBS NewsHour aired the final honor roll segment on August 30, 2021, after the end of War in Afghanistan.
The PBS NewsHour is broadcast on more than 350 PBS member stations and member 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 PBS NewsHour are also made available worldwide via satellites operated by various agencies such as the Voice of America.
A limited number of PBS member stations and regional member networks do not clear the PBS NewsHour on their schedules due to existing carriage on a "primary" PBS member station, a pool mainly confined to "secondary" stations (most of which participate in the service's Program Differentiation Plan) that share certain media markets with a "primary" member outlet. These include the NJ PBS network in New Jersey (as WNET, which co-manages NJ PBS and WLIW, carries the program in the New York City area, the latter airing the program live, while WHYY-TV does so in the Philadelphia market); KVCR-DT in San Bernardino, California; KCET in Los Angeles (KOCE-TV in Huntington Beach, which shares ownership with KCET through parent Public Media Group of Southern California and is the primary PBS member in the region, serves as the program's carrier in the Los Angeles market); and WYIN in Gary, Indiana (WTTW, the primary PBS station for the Chicago DMA that includes WYIN's Northwest Indiana service area, serves as the program's carrier in the Chicago market). In Boston, WGBH-TV airs the program live each weeknight (with a simulcast online), while its secondary station WGBX rebroadcasts the weekday editions later the same evening, and the weekend editions live; a similar case exists in New York City but in reverse, where WLIW airs the weekday and weekend editions of the PBS NewsHour live while WNET airs them on a tape delay (delayed by one hour on weekday editions and by a half-hour on weekends). KQED in San Francisco airs the program each weeknight in simulcast with its radio sister at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time (6:00 p.m. Eastern Time), in addition to airing the Western Edition on television at 6:00 p.m. PT. Unusually for many years, the secondary station of Milwaukee PBS, WMVT, carried the program as part of an early-evening news block with the Nightly Business Report (which was the lead-in to NewsHour on many member stations until that program ceased production in December 2019), and half-hour international newscasts from Deutsche Welle and BBC World News, due to an expanded schedule of PBS Kids and local-interest programming on WMVS; this has since been rectified with the launch of the all-hours PBS Kids subchannel network.
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 PBS NewsHour's subscriptions page with link to a FeedBurner website (for free mp3 download) and through podcast services such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and among others.
The PBS NewsHour is streamed live on the program's YouTube channel at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time each weeknight, with the Western edition also streaming live at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. Pacific Time). PBS News Weekend is also streamed on the YouTube channel live Saturdays and Sundays at 5:00 p.m. ET. Full episodes are available later on the PBS NewsHour YouTube channel and on the program's dedicated page on PBS's website.
The NewsHour was also livestreamed on Ustream until IBM Watson Media discontinued free livesteraming on the platform on September 17, 2018. The NewsHour has also provided livestreaming of special events, most notably streaming the January 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump on the program's Twitter account.
PBS NewsHour has received generally positive reviews from television critics and parents of young children. Patrick Kevin Day of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff are making history on PBS." David Leonard and Micah Schwalb of The Denver Post wrote, "One of the most trusted news programs on television." Phil Owen of TheWrap wrote, "The least partisan analysis." Tim Surette of TV Guide wrote, "The calm and credible information we need."
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.
In October 2006 the media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) accused the PBS NewsHour of lacking balance, diversity, and viewpoints of the general public, and for presenting corporate viewpoints. FAIR found that the PBS NewsHour's guest list from October 2005 to March 2006 had Republicans outnumbering Democrats 2–1, and minorities 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.
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.
TCI is the most ruthless of the cable monopolies. Now that its president, John Malone, has joined the ranks of the information elite, he is being hailed as a visionary by America's business pages. But the John Malone who told McNeil-Lehrer viewers last week that TCI would not seek monopoly control of the information industries had different views not long ago: In 1984, Malone compared the cable industry to "a game of Monopoly" and said that TCI's primary goal was to leverage cash flow and assets to buy more property. He called TCI a "mammoth tax shelter" and said that earning money and paying taxes and dividends was "stupid."
New 'MacNeil/Lehrer' Owner: Liberty Media Corp., a subsidiary of cable-TV giant Tele-Communications Inc., has agreed to purchase a two-thirds interest in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. The company, which produces "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" for PBS, plans to develop programming for cable, the networks and public television. The deal will not affect Robert MacNeil's plan to give up his co-anchor seat next October, but he will oversee all of the new non-"NewsHour" programming. Nor will the deal affect "NewsHour," which "is ours, and ours alone," PBS President Ervin Duggan said, "and it will continue to be so."
(For purposes of the summary below, "Old Liberty" refers to Liberty Media Corporation (including its predecessors) which changed its name to Liberty Interactive Corporation on September 22, 2011 and subsequently changed its name to Qurate Retail, Inc. on April 9, 2018. "New Liberty" refers to Liberty CapStarz, Inc. which changed its name to Liberty Media Corporation on September 22, 2011.)
Liberty Media today is a strange hybrid—part venture capital fund, part mutual fund, part asset shuffler extraordinaire, and part long-term operator of businesses. Its astonishing array of holdings (click here and download the PDF file to see the 9-page chart) includes bits and pieces of television channels like Game Show Network, Animal Planet, and significant pieces of massive publicly held companies like Interactive Corp. and Sprint. (He even owns two-thirds of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.)
Consistent with those commercials and despite its name, the news and commentary one finds on PBS are in rich tune with the narrow capitalist parameters of acceptable coverage and debate that typify the more fully and explicitly for-profit and commercialized corporate media. As progressive journalist David Sirota suggested two years ago, reflecting on recent investigations showing that super-moneyed, right-wing capitalists such as the Koch brothers and Texas billionaire John Arnold had (along with more liberal software mogul Bill Gates) influenced PBS content through multimillion-dollar donations, the "P" in PBS often seems to more properly stand for "Plutocratic," not "Public." None of this should be surprising to anyone familiar with the distinctively big-business-dominated history of U.S. broadcast media. Because the United States fails to provide anything like adequate funding for public broadcasting, both PBS and National Public Radio (a regular vehicle for neoliberal business ideology) depend upon foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals to pay for much of their programming. Beneath their standard claims to have no interest in shaping public media content, these private funders have bottom-line agendas, meaning that their contributions come with strings attached—strings that undermine the integrity of the "independent" journalism they bankroll. (For what it's worth, between 1994 and 2014, the "NewsHour" was primarily owned by the for-profit firm Liberty Media. Liberty Media was run by the conservative and politically active billionaire John Malone, who had a majority stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the show's producer.)
A few observers (Variety, 12/5/94) noted that "for Malone, M/L Prods. is a prestige buy that is likely to earn him some goodwill in Washington; TCI has been a frequent target of lawmakers." As Verne Gay (Newsday, 12/5/94) put it, "The new Republican-controlled Congress may be less willing to bash Malone, even less so now that he owns NewsHour. Washington types, you see, adore NewsHour."
Peter Barton has always belonged to what he calls the "squadron of the second bananas." Few outside the cable industry know who he is -- and those inside it know him best as the right-hand man to his mentor, John C. Malone, the most powerful figure in the business.
MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the production company owned by the former "NewsHour" anchors, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, and Liberty Media, announced in October that it wanted to donate the program to WETA if a deal could be reached. The company is also giving WETA its archives and some smaller production projects. Its employees will become employees of NewsHour Productions LLC, a nonprofit WETA subsidiary set up to operate the program. No money will change hands
However, since 1994, the NewsHour has been produced and primarily owned by the for-profit colossus, Liberty Media. Liberty, which is run by conservative billionaire John Malone, owns the majority stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions - the entity that produces the journalistic content of the show. While other standalone public television projects are often produced by small independent production companies, the NewsHour stands out for being owned by a major for-profit media conglomerate headed by a politically active billionaire.
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, public television's nightly newscast, got two important boosts in the last week: Jim Lehrer, the Washington anchor, returned to the program Monday night after a three- month absence for heart surgery, and 102 public television stations voted to help underwrite the program for the 1984-85 season. The two developments were especially welcome, public-television officials say, because, seven months after its transformation from a half-hour to an hour, the newscast is still struggling to gain acceptance in its expanded form. Contrary to expectations, the nationwide audience of four million viewers has not grown this year. And a number of station officials contend that the program would be stronger if it returned to a half-hour.
MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, producer of the venerable "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," is trying again to launch a late-night newscast on Public Broadcasting Service stations nationwide, this time in conjunction with the New York Times...MacNeil/Lehrer first tried to launch a late-night newscast, dubbed "The National News," in 1995. Plans for the program, which was to be produced with Dow Jones & Co.'s Wall Street Journal Television unit, were eventually dropped.
People often ask me if there are guidelines in our practice of what I like to call MacNeil/Lehrer journalism. Well, yes, there are. And here they are. 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.