PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour
PBS NewsHour[1]
The logo of the relaunch of PBS NewsHour from December 7, 2009
Format News television program
Created by Robert MacNeil
Jim Lehrer
Presented by Jeffrey Brown (Main)
Jim Lehrer (Fridays)
Gwen Ifill
Hari Sreenivasan
Ray Suarez
Margaret Warner
Judy Woodruff
Country of origin United States
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) MacNeil/Lehrer Productions
Original channel PBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original run October 20, 1975 – present
External links

PBS NewsHour is an evening television news program broadcast weeknights on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States. The show is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a company co-owned by former anchors Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil, and Liberty Media, which owns a 65% stake in the company.

Unlike most other evening newscasts in the country, each edition of the PBS NewsHour is one hour long. The program also runs longer segments than most other news outlets in the U.S. The PBS NewsHour is known for its in-depth coverage of the subjects involved, and avoids the use of sound bites, instead playing back extended portions of news conferences and holding interviews that last several minutes.



Name changes

Created in 1975, it initially was known as The Robert MacNeil Report. From mid-1975 through 1983, the show was called The MacNeil/Lehrer Report. From 1983 until former co-anchor Robert MacNeil's retirement in 1995, it was called The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. From 1995 until December 4, 2009, the program was anchored by Lehrer and known as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.[2]


MacNeil and Lehrer first teamed up to cover the United States Senate Watergate hearings for PBS in 1973, which led to an Emmy Award.[3] This recognition led to the 1975 creation of The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour local news program for WNET, each episode of which covered a single issue in-depth. A few months later, the program was renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and began to be broadcast nationwide on PBS stations.

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 extended to an hour in length and incorporated other changes such as the introduction of "documentary reportage from the field";[4] it became known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

The final The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer logo from May 17, 2006, to December 4, 2009.

On May 17, 2006, the program underwent its first major change in presentation in years, adopting new broadcast graphics and a new version of the show's theme song.[citation needed] On December 17, 2007,[5]the NewsHour became the second nightly broadcast network newscast to broadcast in 1080i high definition behind NBC Nightly News, which went HD in March 2007. The difference between this broadcast and Nightly News is that the NewsHour is shown in a letterbox format for those with standard definition television sets. The switch came with the current graphics updated to HD and a new set.

Relaunch to PBS NewsHour

On May 11, 2009, it was reported that The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer would receive a makeover on December 7, 2009[6] and be renamed "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.[7] 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 current executive producer Linda Winslow receiving the award on the show's behalf.[8]

Lehrer formally ended his time as an anchor of the program in June 2011.[9]

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, a news summary that lasts a few minutes is given, briefly explaining many of the headlines around the world. International stories often include excerpts of reports filed by ITN correspondents. This is typically followed by three or four longer news segments running 10–15 minutes. These segments explore a few of the headline events in-depth. The segments include discussions with experts, newsmakers, and/or commentators. The program often wraps up with a reflective essay, but on Fridays it ends with a discussion between two regular columnists. Since 2004, the usual participants have been Mark Shields and David Brooks. Analysts who fill in when either Shields or Brooks is absent have included David Gergen, Thomas Oliphant, Rich Lowry, William Kristol, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ruth Marcus, and E. J. Dionne.

The program's senior correspondents are Gwen Ifill, Ray Suarez, Margaret Warner, Jeffrey Brown, and Judy Woodruff. Essayists have included Anne Taylor Fleming, Richard Rodriguez, and Roger Rosenblatt.[10] Correspondents have been Tom Bearden, Betty Ann Bowser, Susan Dentzer, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Kwame Holman, Spencer Michels, Fred de Sam Lazaro, Paul Solman, and others.[11]

NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer 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.[12] 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.[13]

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 US military personnel killed in Iraq. On January 4, 2006, The NewsHour added military personnel killed in Afghanistan to the segment. The "Honor Roll" is no longer a regular feature of the program.

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 300 PBS 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[14][15], with additional facilities in San Francisco, California and Denver, Colorado, and is a collaboration between PBS television stations WNET, WETA-TV, and KQED.

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."[16] 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."


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

In the documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, Noam Chomsky criticizes the short span of time that he was allotted when interviewed on the NewsHour in September 1990. Chomsky complains that a short format allows only the repetition of conventional wisdom, not the exploration of ideas.[17] In 1992, radio broadcaster David Barsamian called the NewsHour "stenographers to power."[18]

FAIR study

In October 2006, the progressive media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) accused the NewsHour of lacking balance, diversity, and viewpoints of the general public, in favor of Republican Party 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.[19] 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.[20]

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 (the Republican Party held a majority in Congress).[21]

Scholarly analysis

Dr. Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science and economics at UCLA, has evaluated various media programs based on "think tank" citations to map liberal verses conservative media slants. He has said that, based on his research, PBS NewsHour is the most centrist news program on television and the closest to a truly objective stance.[22][23]

International broadcasts

  • In the United Kingdom, seen Mondays to Fridays, four-times a day on PBS UK, the day after broadcast in the US.[24]
  • In the Middle East, this program is seen daily on OSN News.
  • In Australia, seen Tuesdays to Saturdays at 4:30pm on SBS One.[25]
  • In New Zealand, seen Tuesdays to Saturdays at 10pm on Triangle Stratos and Triangle TV (Auckland).[26]


For most of the run, funding has been provided by:


  1. ^ a b Jensen, Elizabeth (2009-05-11). "‘NewsHour’ on PBS to Get Makeover". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/arts/television/12pbs.html. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  2. ^ a b "NewsHour History". MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/aboutus/history.html. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "About US". PBS NewsHour. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/aboutus/bio_lehrer.html. 
  4. ^ "No Blaring: MacNeil on Emmy, Keeping a Reasonable Tone in Broadcast News". PBS. September 27, 2010. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/09/no-blaring.html. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  5. ^ LeGro, Tom. "NewsHour High-Definition Broadcast FAQ". PBS NewsHour. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/media/july-dec07/hdexplained_12-14.html. Retrieved 9/20/2011. 
  6. ^ http://pressroom.pbs.org/documents/newshour_rls_512
  7. ^ Kurtz, Howard (November 30, 2009). "PBS, changing 'NewsHour' to preserve it". The Washington Post (washingtonpost.com): pp. C01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/29/AR2009112902725.html. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  8. ^ "The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces Winners...". National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. September 27, 2010. http://www.emmyonline.org/mediacenter/news_31st_winners.html. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  9. ^ "Jim Lehrer to retire as PBS NewsHour anchor". The Spy Report (Media Spy). May 13, 2010. http://www.mediaspy.org/report/2011/05/13/us-jim-lehrer-to-retire-as-pbs-newshour-anchor/. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Essays archive". PBS NewsHour. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/entertainment/essays/. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  11. ^ "Correspondents". PBS NewsHour. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/aboutus/correspondents.html. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  12. ^ "Jim Lehrer: The Dean of Moderators". MSNBC. September 29, 2004. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6133830/. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  13. ^ Suddath, Claire (October 2, 2008). "Debate Moderator Gwen Ifill". Time. http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1846354,00.html. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  14. ^ http://home.macneil-lehrer.com/about-macneillehrer-productions/
  15. ^ http://home.macneil-lehrer.com/contact-us/
  16. ^ Another Chapter Begins for NewsHour Jim Lehrer. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, December 4, 2009.
  17. ^ Excerpt from documentary Manufacturing Consent on YouTube criticizing PBS Newshour.
  18. ^ David Barsamian, Stenographers to Power: Media and Propaganda (Common Courage P, 1992), 105.
  19. ^ Rendall, Steve; Hollar, Julie (September/October 2006). "Are You on the NewsHour's Guestlist? PBS flagship news show fails public mission". FAIR. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2967. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  20. ^ "MacNeil/Lehrer Sells Out, Extra! Update February 1995". Fair.org. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1277. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  21. ^ Getler, Michael (October 6, 2006). "A FAIR Analysis? By Michael Getler October 6, 2006". PBS. http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2006/10/a_fair_analysis.html. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  22. ^ Tim Groseclose (2011). How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 978-0-312-55593-1. 
  23. ^ Jackson, Brad (August 10, 2011). "The Media’s Institutional Liberalism". The New Ledger. http://newledger.com/2011/08/the-medias-institutional-liberalism/. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  24. ^ Lawson, Mark (2 November 2011). "TV matters: PBS UK". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/nov/02/mark-lawson-pbs-uk?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+theguardian%2Fmedia%2Frss+(Media). Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  25. ^ Meade, Amanda (August 4, 2011). "Al Jazeera news for SBS". The Australian. http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/tvinsider/index.php/theaustralian/comments/al_jazeera_news_for_sbs. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Triangle TV Programme Information: PBS NewsHour". Triangle Television. http://www.tritv.co.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=56&catid=34&Itemid=54. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 

External links

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