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The End of NOW: Reflecting on Eight Years of Solid Investigative Journalism

John Siceloff Yes, folks, it's true. NOW on PBS has come to the end of its broadcast run. The last episode will air on April 30, 2010. PBS announced last fall it was canceling NOW and providing funding for a new public affairs show called "Need to Know."

NOW had a great run. I was privileged to see it from start to finish—I was the executive producer when the show launched on January 18, 2002. NOW with Bill Moyers (as it was then called) got its start because of the terrible events of September 11, 2001. PBS wanted to provide the country with a new source of analysis and insight, saying in a press release that NOW "will explore the whys behind timely top stories."

This is how Bill described the aim of NOW: "Americans are saturated with events in the headlines, but in this pounding news cycle it is hard to grasp the bigger picture and the larger forces driving daily developments. NOW will report on the reality behind and beyond news-making events."

And report we did. Bill headed the program for three years, then passed the baton to David Brancaccio as host and Maria Hinojosa as senior correspondent. Moyers conducted extraordinary interviews and pushed the NOW team to dig deep into the nexus of power and money in government—all part of an effort "to provide tools for the engaged citizen." Brancaccio and Hinojosa worked to understand the realities of working Americans and the diverse nation and globe we live in, always looking to lift up and celebrate people making a difference—a style we came to call "solutions-oriented journalism."

Our work resonated with both audiences and our peers. Over the course of our eight years, NOW on PBS reports and journalists have won four national Emmy Awards, the USC Annenberg Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism, and citations of distinction from The Sierra Club, The Alliance for Women in Media, the Overseas Press Club, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and The Radio Television Digital News Association.

Our commitment at NOW has been to follow the facts where they lead us. That has not always been easy. In 2004 the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, initiated a secret probe of NOW's interview guests and stories, which he concealed from the board of directors of his own organization. Tomlinson made no secret of his distaste for Moyers and for NOW. Since CPB is the conduit for much of the federal funding that PBS and NPR receive, the rift was a serious one for public media. Tomlinson resigned in 2005 after investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting uncovered evidence "that its former chairman had repeatedly broken federal law and the organization's own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias."

Over the past eight plus years NOW has shot stories in almost every state and in several dozen countries. Our last three broadcasts provide an overview and a narrative. First, we begin with the economic meltdown and connect the dots all the way to warrantless wiretapping by the NSA—which a federal judge just ruled was illegal. Next, we take an in-depth look at NOW's coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—which have lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II. Finally, we lift up stories of hope and heartbreak along the fault lines of inequality of income and power in America and the globe. Taken together, the three shows make a case that investigative reporting is vital for the health of our democracy.

Two of these three shows are already online and I encourage you to watch and share them. And don't stop there—you can watch thousands of NOW shows online.

So why was NOW cancelled? PBS made a strategic decision to reallocate resources as part of a broad effort to reinvigorate public affairs coverage on the network. Here's how Paula Kerger, the CEO of PBS, put it in a speech last month:

"Journalism doesn't need simply a rescue; it needs a reinvention....The latest Pew research tells the tale. Forty percent of Americans are participating in the creation of news by posting stories to Facebook, highlighting stories on Twitter and debating the issues of the day through dueling YouTube videos. News has become a social experience and journalism must consider those implications."

Kerger described "Need to Know", the new public affairs show funded in large part by PBS, as "a series where reporting will originate online before it moves on air." The series premieres May 7th. I will be watching, and I hope you will too.

You can also join the national conversation about the public affairs coverage on PBS. Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, has gotten thousands of emails and letters; he commented on the end of Now in his March 25, March 18, December 4, and November 23 columns.

If you have interest in what the team at NOW will be doing in the future, you can follow me on Twitter or stop in at the NOW web site, which will continue to be a resource for audiences old and new.

My thanks and admiration to the thirty staff members of NOW who made the broadcast and the web site so extraordinary, and most of all to you, the audience, for your support and encouragement.

Viewer Comments

Commenter: David Wright, Denver, CO
I am so sorry to see NOW end. It is one of the only non partisan news programs on TV. Where will we find in depth reports on world issues? I will especially miss Maria Hinojosa. Very sad news.

Commenter: Anthony Suarez
Although I've only recently started to watch NOW, I am saddened to hear it will be ending it's series this April 30th. I have fully enjoyed this journalism broadcasting format. It is such a rarity these dasy to have such in-depth reporting,and is sorely needed to bring perspective to an overwhelmingly one sided media coverage. I can only hope that PBS new venture with "Need to Know" will be as forthright in its investigative and reporting news of public affairs as NOW is and was.

PBS NOW viewer, Anthony Suarez

Commenter: joyce
I will miss NOW. I have reservations about a replacement that uses online input as a focus.
We need experts. Experts are not employed for journalism as much as in the past.

I am glad you are keeping the NOW website as I rely on it. I like the links. And use it to easily access white house, recovery plan updates, and volunteer offerings which are not as comprehensively listed elsewhere as from your link.

Commenter: Steve
Dear Folks at NOW,
The show's cancellation is a sad thing. You all have done consistently excellent work, and I have no faith that the replacement show can come anywhere near the independent, critical, and fair approach of Bill Moyers, David Brancaccio, and others.

More important, as a political science professor, I frequently used NOW-- NOW's brief, to the point, but deeply insightful reports were ideal for class use and for assignments. For years, NOW and Bill Moyers Journal have been the only reliable video sources covering activities of regulatory agencies and the bureaucracy. I am disheartened to see that disappear. Together with the loss of Bill Moyers Journal, and the steadily deteriorating quality of the Newshour, PBS's ability to serve its traditional mission is in great jeopardy.

Thanks for all the hard work. It made a great, and positive, difference in people's lives.
Steve Rockwell

Commenter: John Doe
I too am extremely disappointed in the PBS decision to cancel NOW. The fresh, proven journalism will be missed.

Commenter: Tom and Diann Weinman
What a great disappointment and the loss of a true friend--we are avid fan--we can only hope that your replacement will offer us true investigative reporting---our best to all Now staff you can not be replaced

Commenter: Ron Vander Kooi
Thank you for your good work. We will miss you...& Bill Moyers, and our Fridaay nights will have to be changed considerably.

Would that those in charge would bring you back.

Ron & Betty Vander Kooi, Arvada CO

Commenter: Linda Rice-Johnston
I am disappointed but not surprised that PBS has chosen to cancel NOW. My local station has changed NOW's broadcast time slot so many times that I haven't been able to keep track of the program. I watched it consistently when it followed Bill Moyers, but now seldom figure out where to find it. If only the same could happen to Antiques Roadshow and those dreadful music specials PBS broadcasts. I support public broadcasting for the News Hour, Masterpiece Theatre, Mystery, and Bill Moyers. Now I have one less reason to continue my support.

Commenter: Janice Webb
I am terribly disappointed to be losing NOW. Friday nights were something to look forward to with NOW and then The Journal. I wish all of you the best and hope to be seeing more of your work in the future.

Commenter: Marge Carnahan
I feel so sad to think about the loss of NOW. I absolutely LOVED it! Thank you to all who made it possible and so outstanding! Best wishes to you all! I'll be interested in following what you all do next! Many many thanks! Marge

Commenter: Sharon Raum
I have never missed one episode of NOW. I consider NOW and Bill Moyers Journal the best of journalism on TV in the past and today. The reason I donated to PBS was for NOW, Bill Moyers Journal, and programs like POV. POV seems to ge gone also. I am left with nothing to support at PBS. I understand Bill Moyers wants to retire. He deserves it after all the years he has served the people with great programs. But I see absolutely no reason to cancel NOW. David Brancaccio and Maria Hinojosa have done a superb job and I always thought the show should have stayed an hour program and told them so every time I donated. Right now I am not pleased with PBS at all. I do not plan to financially support them any more as it appears to me that corporate America has bought them out and the viewers no long matter. I will be absolutely lost without NOW and Bill Moyers Journal. I have watched Bill Moyers since he first started on PBS. I watched all of the specials he did over the years. He has enriched my life in ways no other human being on this earth has done. David worked with Bill interviewing people during the year just before Moyers retired the first time. He learned from the best and learned well. David does great interviews and Maria Hinojosa has been superb at the reporting she does out in the field. I am thankful that I had NOW as long as I did. I am thankful I never missed a program. I am furious that PBS would eliminate this program and do not plan to donate to PBS this year. We, the people, and honest investigative journalism no longer seem to matter to PBS.

Thank you for all you have done to educate and inform the viewers over the years!

Commenter: Jeannie Norris
I agree with Pallist comments.I have no idea where I will find such great journalism as both Now and Moyers Journal have demonstrated. I fear for this country when it can no longer listen to the truth on both sides of a situation and consider journalism to be "entertainment",a rating race,(or worse)only the opinions of a station's owners.I never thought Channel 13 would abandoned such quality programing and I am very angry that they have done so.

Commenter: meiling albert
I'm not part of the twitter crowd, and I am deeply disappointed in PBS that NOW and Bill Moyer'S Journal are going off the air. The Journal was the one show I looked forward to each week for intelligent thoughtful commentary on important public issues. NOW was my third favorite after Frontline. It was on far too late at night or I would have watched it regularly. It covered issues that are important such as immigration and oil companies taking over land in South America that are close to my heart.I love investigative journalism by news people of integrity. It seems to be a dying art. Actually it's being starved.

I have been losing interest in the Lehrer News Hour. Somethings missing. It doesn't really look closely at controversial issues. It just appears to be looking closely.

I'm so disappointed I may withdraw my support of PBS.

Commenter: margaret w kennedy
I am so shocked at no more "NOW" What are David and Maria going to do? My Friday night has been ruined!I hope Bill is going to continue. I use my local library a lot but if the TV continues to deteriorate I'll be using it a lot more. Best Wishes to you all.

Commenter: M Zorka
This is terrible news! NOW is one of the best programs that has ever graced the public airwaves. I am both incredulous and deeply disappointed. Is there any way this termination an be avoided???

Commenter: Kay Lindgren
I am extremely sorry to see the NOW program end. I am not able to spend my time twittering,etc. For one
reason the computer is much harder on my eyes. Also
someones opinion online does not make it true. When I watch NOW I know the facts have been checked and both sides are aired. It sounds like journalism is being deligated to the general public who certainly have a right the their opinion but how much time do they have to check facts and how do they get the an overview from Podunkville. I am well aware of the number of publications going out of print and online. Journalism is apparently dying.

Commenter: Patricia Tugas
NOW has been a great program. We need information,
such as that which NOW has been providing!

Commenter: Maribel Dana
I am heartbroken to lose Now and your wonderful, insightful investigations. They did not always make one happy but I felt the issues are vital to citizenship and world community.

Boy, Now and Bill Moyers J. gone in the same month. It's awful. I will try to follow your future endeavors. I support the Center for Public Integrity and I'd support you folks if you create something like that for American enlightenment.

Please keep my on your mailing list.
Thank you for the many gifts you gave.

Commenter: Alene Cisney
Please be sure to forward our supportive comments to those who make programming decisions in PBS!

Commenter: Chitra Raman
What a shame. I hope this does not signal some kind of Orwellian future for public broadcasting -- unless we're there already. Brilliant work, NOW crew. All the best.

Commenter: Mandip Singh Soin FRGS,India
oh my god , John ,though a very well written letter - not an easy read ! can't imagine what the American public psyche will be without ' Now 'as it was truly thought provoking. And i am saying all this following your stories from India !! all the best and look forward to having you all morph into whatever and continuing your good work .

Commenter: Gay Leah and Glen Barfield
We are both SERIOUSLY DISAPPOINTED in the cancellation of this wonderful program, and of Bill Moyers. No where else can we find such reporting, and in the face of the extremism of these times, such objective and honest facing of the facts. It will be a HUGE loss for American journalism, and the show to replace these two is potentially a pacifying and mediocre answer to these courageous explorers of the truth now leaving us. In sadness...the barfields

Commenter: Glenn Skalland
What Bill Moyers said about David Brancaccio (from Wikipedia):

I asked David to join me over a year ago because I wanted my successor to have grown up, as it were, in public broadcasting, an independent journalist, believing our job is to sift through the untidy realities, weigh the competing claims, and offer to you our considered approximation of what's really going on.

Where will we get independent, considered approximations of what's going on now?

Commenter: Lois Jean Hershey
I will miss NOW very much. My favorite channels are OETA and OKLA. They never fail to tell it like it is and I can get Oklahoma news in the Oklahoma Panhandle. We get our news from Texas or Kansas. Whatever your endeavors will be henceforth--God Bless!!!!!!!!!!!!

Commenter: James B. Porter
The news about the cancellation of NOW greatly saddens me. here is the end of a unique program just when we thought that humanitarianism was holding sway in America. I see evil doers behind
this action by PBS.

James P.

Commenter: Alene Cisney
I am very angry at the cancellation of NOW. David Brancaccio should have been given Bill Moyers' one-hour slot on Moyers' retirement.

I can't believe that "Need to Know" will in any way replace the invaluable work done by David and Bill, and suspect that this cancellation is the work of conservatives who wanted to get rid of their kind of hard-hitting journalism.

Until I heard of the cancellation, I donated $40 every quarter to public television, always in the name of NOW and Bill Moyers' Journal. Since then I've donated nothing.

Bring back Brancaccio and/or Moyers in some form, and I'll once again donate as much as I can afford.

Commenter: Katie
My husband and I were so upset when we heard Bill Moyer was retiring (good for him - bad for the world). Then when we learned NOW was also going off air we become entirely depressed and are talking about giving up the TV once again. We excitedly looked forward to these two shows each Friday night. They were our lifeline to real information -- information so vital. The information presented on these two shows propelled us off the couch, out of the house and launched our activism. I am not exaggerating! Now we are totally upset and sad and wonder how we'll stay informed from trusted sources. How will PBS know their on-line sources from Facebook and YouTube can be trusted sources? I never doubted or mistrusted information presented in Moyer's journal and NOW. I could go on and on complaining but I NOW want ask, please bring back NOW with David and Maria! Losing Bill is hard enough.

Commenter: elizabeth zingg
I will miss Bill Moyers and David and Maria and all the stories that made my blood boil or touched my heartstrings. Thank you so much for filling in those chasms of missing information that seem to be plaguing the network news shows.

Commenter: Michael S
As a high school teacher of Ethics, I will miss NOW and BIll Moyers Journal. They have been sources I have been able to present to students as they learn to research complex social issues. (My students know more about on-line "research" than I will, but they do not always know how to critically examine arguments, assumptions, biases or principles.

I will watch "Need to Know," but am saddened that NOW will no longer be part of my weekly on-going education.


Commenter: Ms. Dantes
Thank you for the great journalism.
Hope it continues to be as great, in the new format.
I will continue to support PBS as much as I can.

To the staff of NOW,
Thank you very much for the courage of presenting the views so needed in the world!

Commenter: Marlyn
I watch the viedo and thought it was great that things the news did not report on was being made known. I am sorry to see that the program has been taken over by the government. I do believe the news report what they want the people to know. I know we have moden technology now and there is no more privecy it sad to say triassic evacuations

Commenter: Judith Lockwood
We are very disappointment to loose Now, an irreplaceable program headed by two very accomplished journalists. What we will get instead is watered down news reporting not worthy of our time. It is getting every more difficult to find anything in the way of good, rigorous reporting of a wide range of topics.

Commenter: Julia Moguil
Losing NOW and Bill Moyers Journal is too much to bare. PBS is the best of what this country most needs. Investigative reporting - finding the facts
and being unafraid to report them. This decision
is wrong and PBS is losing me as a contributor and
strong supporter. Thank you for educating me and
keeping our country strong. I shall come to the NOW
web site and hope you all find new avenues for which
we can support your outstanding public service.

Commenter: Lawrence Quilici
I just wrote a comment about my saddness Now is canceled and after reading the other comments want to add one more. I remember when Now did a story on the Mining Corporations resistence to safety and assistance to miners and the various violations, preverications, and fines that have occured. Now I read that the same mining Corporation in West Virginia is responsible for the death of miners by methane gas! The CEO says "we are doing our best!"

Regular corporate media never brings the indepth truth to these real live sitations. They just call them "accidental and unfortunate."

Without this indepth reporting our democracy shrivels and dies and greedy corporation thrive.
Is this what we want for Americans?

Commenter: Susan Kepner
I am sad to see NOW go away. I am over whelmed by on-line material, too fast a pace! Being able to watch on our large screen tv is a better venue for me.Have always enjoyed the "reality" of the program and PBS efforts to report the truth. Thank you for giving the public information and choice that is unbiased.

Commenter: Lawrence Quilici
Very sad to witness another indepth News program bit the dust as we do not believe or trust mainstream media to give us depth reporting as they are all funded and owned by for profit Corporations. It is indeed a long dark night for those who seek unfiltered information and education to make decisions in the arenas of our lives...

Commenter: Christine Rehark
NOW is a great program. It presents news in an extremely honest manner. Only PBS could have such a unique program. I am shocked and very disappointed to see its demise, especially when such trash as the so-called fair & balanced news on Fox continues to thrive.

Commenter: Marly Piver
I am so sad that NOW will be going off the air. My husband and I looked forward to watching the show every week. Having NOW go off the air will cause a deep void in accurate and interesting reporting.

Commenter: Ayman
It is very sad to see an extraordinary, in fact 'unique', program fade away from PBS. Moyers and Bronciacio spoke my conscience as an American, as a world citizen, as an intellectual, a family man and ordinary human being. The entire staff have not been commended enough. They are a breed we need to keep our nation great for generations to come. And I am curious about what they do next.

I have never considered NOW a biased, liberal or conservative programming. It is an enlightenment about how our systems work and often collide or erode. In an advanced nation, many of our population do not see, or care, where our nation is heading and how many of our people fall unnoticed. NOW materializes the consequences and reveals corruption, nepotism and even successes on the account of ordinary and hard-working tax-paying citizens. It often said what my heart could not. And often told it to keep on beating.

It has been a blessing to have been among NOW's audience.

It is sad to see NOW replaced, rather than amended by another of PBS's great programming. Nothing will ever match its high bar, set in the history of public television. There was NOW, awake and calling while all others were slipping for fame and fortune.

I have yet to see the paradigm or potential in the marketing-lead twitter or otherwise. Private enterprise is already a threat to the people's Internet access and content!

NOW should remain for our future as a classic of how public television should be.

Commenter: Elaine Hopkins
I view or listen to the podcast versions of Now & Bill Moyer's journal every week. I learn so much from guuests on the Journal & from investigatice reporting on Now. I so hope PBS recognizes the huge void the end of these two sws leaves. Please develop similar new programming. Thank you.

Commenter: Anne Russ
Thank you for covering many of the stories ignored by the main stream media. Will miss NOW on Friday nights. I found all your stories interesting , important, and so well researched and presented.


Anne Russ

Commenter: Lurline Aslanian
You have my deepest respect for your journalistic integrity! I am disappointed to hear of CPB's limited vision and, indead, folly. I trust, however, that your work will resurface in some other form and location, as it must, for humanity's sake.

Commenter: Georgiana Williams
I am disappointed that NOW is becoming THEN. I am skeptical that anything can live up to the depth and integrity of this show. Many thanks for getting to the bottom of things.

Commenter: Sherlee
So sorry to have NOW go off of the air. I have really enjoyed the in-depth coverage over the years telling stories that are not found anywhere else.

Blessings on the whole team!

Commenter: Sonal Kapadia
I am very sorry to see NOW cancelled by PBS, for which I had great admiration and respect. Both Mr. Brancaccio and Ms. Hinojsa are excellent journalists. They will be greatly missed. I am concerned about the future of PBS' strategic direction. Social networks are not the medium to replace professional journalism. Best Wishes for the NOW team.

Commenter: Paula Brennecke, TX
ALL the other commentors before me speak my mind on this sad situation.

Commenter: Shirley and Tom Wall
Don't give us "a need to revitalize"! How, for heaven's sake, do you "revitalize" discussions of today's news and issues. We, the public, need so desperately the kind of two-sided information we get from "The News Hour", and the in-depth reporting of NOW, and the thoughtful and often philosophical, discussions on Bill Moyers.

Our country is crying for untainted news and well researched information. These criteria are becoming almost non-existent. (ie "self-editing Wikipedia"; splash and dash headlines.

PBS is the only source now for trusted and trustworthy information.

PLEASE - DON'T "GIVE UP THE SHIP! or the old expression: "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater"

Shirley and Tom Wall, Suttons Bay, MI

Commenter: sb
What a shame, the conservatives are shutting down the information and replacing it with mediocre, safe, middle of the road stuff. We need more Bill Moyers. No one else gave us the information about the Patriot Act.

Commenter: Martha Spanninger
As a 3 year former staff member of NOW, reading this fills me with sadness and pride. Sending Kudos and best wishes to all of you. It was great work done with utmost care and passion! May we all find a way to keep telling the important stories.

Commenter: Jophj Loving
Bill Moyer leaving PBS and Now leaving really is sad. It just sucks!

Commenter: Barbara Diamond
April 30, 2010 will be a sad day for TV. NOW is/was an exceptional show. Thank you.

Commenter: Pallist
This is really a shame. Eight years is not nearly long enough for NOW to have been on the air. How long has The Lehrer News Hour been on the air? Any sign of it being cancelled? I have already signed several petitions and written PBS about this disastrous decision. Professional investigative journalism by people of Maria Hinojosa's and David Brancaccio's caliber can't be replaced by blogs or Facebook: My concern is that PBS's refusal to support this great show is more about the deterioration of journalism and the trend towards gossip, punditry and infotainment. I'm also positive that NOW's excellent reporting has made a great many enemies over the year, a few of which pressured PBS to censor stories about them. There's plenty of reason to believe that this cancellation is actually more about threatened interest groups and a destruction of investigative reporting than a "reinvention".

As for the Pew Research study, There isn't nor was there ever anything wrong with journalism. It just made those in power quite uncomfortable when it worked.

We should send PBS a loud message that NOW's fans are NOT happy about this decision. Their response has been completely inadequate. The "P" in PBS no longer stands for Public. But it is the Public that needs this show. I personally am considering ending my subscription, as the two shows I watch - NOW and Moyers' Journal - are being cancelled. And as Paula Kerger notes, all the news is online anyway.

Commenter: Julie Gammello
Columbus, OH

I am extremely disappointed in the PBS decision to cancel NOW. Mr. Brancaccio and Ms. Hinojosa have been fresh and objective voices counter acting MSM, "red carpet" journalism. In many ways, NOW replicated the early vision of Don Hewitt's 60 Minutes, which has succumbed to ratings pressure.

I'm truly disheartened by PBS's decision to cancel eight years of proven, professional journalism.

Commenter: Robert Michael Foster, MA
The next story should be what really happened to NOW. The story behind the story. That would be a good exercise for journalism students across our USA. That is not to take away from what may follow, because we do not know what they will do.

Commenter: Roni Sionakides
I will miss your thought-provoking program, something that just cannot be found on YouTube, Twitter or other online websites. I wish all of you success in your future and hope you are able to come up with something just as enlightening!

Commenter: Larry JInes
I'm sorry I'm behind the curve on knowing this - about the cancellation of NOW. I hope the show cuts as deeply and covers the topics that need to be explored, as NOW has done so well. I'm concerned, I must admit, that will not be the case.

We are losing all of the substantive journalism (almost) we have left.

Then what....?

Commenter: songweasel
"Forty percent of Americans are participating in the creation of news by posting stories to Facebook, highlighting stories on Twitter and debating the issues of the day through dueling YouTube videos. News has become a social experience and journalism must consider those implications."

(sigh) NOW cut thru all that clutter (and make no mistake, so much of it is clutter), and asked questions, got answers, and told stories. it was clean. it was neat. it was reliable.

i'll miss this show.

i know pbs has been at the forefront in digital media. i appreciate that...and i look forward to the new stuff y'all have planned. good luck with it.

and to all those who have worked so hard on NOW, i send my best wishes and admiration. i'll miss you most of all.

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