NewsHour: Not Just a TV Show


In a recent New York Times article, media reporter Elizabeth Jensen underscored the financial and new media challenges faced by the PBS NewsHour.

Jensen cited anonymous public television sources who critiqued the NewsHour’s broadcast format and its website:

But with a deep financing crisis forcing layoffs and other cutbacks this week, some public television employees believe that format — and a general unwillingness to embrace the digital realities facing journalism — may be jeopardizing the program’s future.

The article also quoted Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, who said the NewsHour should hone its multimedia tools. “You can’t just be a TV show anymore,” he said.

In response to the article, NewsHour deputy executive producer Kathleen McCleery and CEO Bo Jones have offered the following:

We maintain the future for the “PBS NewsHour” is bright. The program is strong. We are committed to the best reporting possible, on air and online. While these are tough times for many news organizations (ours included), we have many funders — PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting plus corporations and foundations — all of whom continue to support our unique brand of journalism. We recognize changes are necessary and we’ve been making them in ways that will best position us for the future. Plus, we are doing all we can to bring in new resources.

PBS NewsHour Vertical LogoTonight’s broadcast is a fine example of our commitment to deep, thoughtful analysis of the critical news stories of the day. We’ll devote about 12 minutes to the crisis in Syria with the latest news plus analysis from two of the best thinkers available, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Vali Nasr. We’ll examine the financial plight of one of the nation’s poorest cities, Detroit. We’ll conclude a series of reports about food security around the world with an in-depth look at the California dairy industry. And our regular team of Mark Shields and David Brooks will offer civil but sharp insights into the week’s political stories.

We strongly disagree with the criticism of our online efforts. We have indeed embraced the digital world in a vigorous fashion. We have a team of smart, serious journalists who understand and work well in today’s interactive world. Witness our most recent reporting, Paul Solman’s “New Adventures for Older Workers,” a brilliant pull together of important information for baby boomers and others.

There’s much more to highlight, including:

  • In-depth reporting from Lebanon on the spillover of the Syrian war from Margaret Warner
  • more coverage to the immigration debate than any other news outlet: an 8-part series from Ray Suarez and Google hangouts with Hari Sreenivasan
  • historical context on Watergate gleaned from the NewsHour’s own archives
  • viewer engagement on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Voting Rights Act
  • and an acclaimed story on the dangers of so-called bath salts.

The fact of the matter is that we are not “just a TV show” any longer.