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The stories we Need to Know

Need to Know premieres tonight, May 7, at 8:30 p.m. in many locations. But check your local listings.

Join Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham as they address the gulf oil spill, gun policy, the pill and other issues. Special guests: Former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Coming up on Need to Know in the coming weeks:

“It really does suck to be in a gang,” is how one El Paso teen put it. He lives across the border from Juarez, Mexico, a city ravaged by drug violence. Many of his friends have been caught up in the fighting there between Mexican police and drug cartels. Some have died.

Our producers went to Juarez to find out what life is like for teens there, and to understand why some of them join gangs. The story is just one of many you’ll see online and on air in the coming weeks.

Need to Know also looks at gun policy in America, and examines how NRA members really feel about gun control. We travel to Texas to examine a political fight over school textbooks, and how it could affect classrooms across the country.

And we talk to a Somali rapper about his music and his heritage, and find out what it was like the day he left Mogadishu.

It’s a new way of looking at news, with hosts Jon Meacham and Alison Stewart, every Friday night.



  • Richard Castrina

    One story the investing public needs to know is about the “Presidents Working Group on Financial Markets” (PPT – plunge prevention team). What they do and how they go about mitigating a stock market plunge such as we had on May 6th and 7th. There has been a lot of mumbo jumbo connected with this and past plunges.

  • Off to the Weekend

    [...] Newsweek is for sale. Jon Meacham isn’t David Remnick, but he does have a tv show [...]

  • Jack

    As this show replaces Bill Moyer’s The Journal, it comes with great expectations and some big shoes to fill. I wish it the very best and see the team of Alison and Jon as entirely up to the task. One thought or wish: my intake of The Journal was largely through podcast. I’m hoping that Need to Know will be distributed in the same manner.

  • Don Lantz

    Looking forward to Allison and Jon’s hosting this new venture. My only regret
    is it’s conflict with Countdown and Maddow time slots. Moyer’s Journal came
    on after Maddow at 10pm.
    I am not adept at taping programs…yet, but will endeavor

  • Rich Pulin

    Bill Maher has taken a nuch calmer approach, lately, and become very boring!
    It’s your turn to move center-stage in the on-air comedic political arena!
    Good Luck!

  • Barbara Nelson

    Will the team of NOW be included? It was a sad night to have both The Journal and NOW discontinued – The Journal with great fanfare but not a word of explanation about NOW.
    Where is David Brancacio and Maria Hinojosa NOW.

  • John Clemmons

    I couldn’t help but to compare “Need to Know” to NOW and The Journal and was sadly disappointed. This program does not compare to the quality to those two. You’ll need to go back to the drawing board soon. I’ll continue to watch for improvement but only for a while if the program does not.

  • Susan

    I got what I expected when hearing Bill Moyers lauded at the beginning of the show–a liberal slant coming from people who seem to think they are unbiased.

  • Ian bernard

    You couldn’t find two more dull people if you had decided to set Television back 50 years. Tired questions from 2 very so-so people. From Bill Moyers to this? Sad!

  • Lauren M.

    If you’re going to premiere with such a subject as “the pill”, why not do something radical, like report an unbiased history instead of the repulsive report I just witnessed. An entire segment on the history of the pill without mention of the moral controversy? Looks like another lazy reporting job by people who don’t really care to understand what they are “researching”.

  • Miller

    I missed part of the Yankee-Red Sox game to watch the first show. Good job Meachie & Ally!!!

  • Merry

    Well, the last several minutes had my husband and me practically rolling on the floor…Sarah Palin and Kay Bailey Hutchinson looking for the other two horsemen? Hysterical!

  • Mary Robertson

    I was hopeful that something at least 70% as good as Moyers and Now would appear with this show. How sad I was to see this mediocre show. I “need to know” about the pill?!! Come on! Please reconsider the topics of this show. Bring us topics of investigative journalism relevant to today as Moyers did! And forget the razzmatazz format. We Friday night listeners want thoughtfulness. Is Meacham doomed? I like his new Newsweek which gives thoughtful analysis and now that’s going down!

  • Gustavo Corral

    I was very impressed with the interview of Bill Clinton! All softball questions about vision and passion and no hard-core policy discussions at all ! I think you’ll be getting many invitations from top politicians in the future !!

  • Irena Klepfisz

    “Need to Know” is a disaster. This program is *no different* than 20/20 and Dateline or even 60 Minutes (with an imitation of Andy Rooney tagged on at the end). In “Now” and in “Bill Moyers Journal” we had in-depth stories with people not generally in the news–not Bloomberg or Clinton who are on every single other channel on cable and standard news. Both “Now” and “Bill Moyers Journal” allowed voices who are rarely (usually never) heard on TV. I always learned something new–in terms of facts, perspective, analysis. There was nothing remotely resembling investigating reporting on this show, nothing really new that I needed to know that I didn’t already know. I can’t believe this is being advertised as an adequate substitute. Shame on PBS.

  • Frank Mack

    Open Carry. Plenty of screen time from those “reasonable” anti rkba people like Rosenthal and Bloomberg, posed as calm and respectful. Pro rkba Larry Pratt posed as some nut that wants to arm people for “gun fights” on airplanes. Guess we’re in for some more of Moyers-like slant. fm

  • janice

    Extremely disappointing! Can’t believe PBS replaced Bill Moyers and Now with a stupid magazine format. If I want a magazine, I’ll buy People. I expect a lot more from PBS. Please renew my confidence in public television by revising the format. Choose one topic and explore it in-depth; multiple episodes if necessary!!! The PBS audience deserves more than Need to Know offers!!!!!

  • Walter Frederics

    You lost the two best examples of journalism in this century; Bill Moyers Journal and Now. Once more you replaced these shows with a joke. Are you folks that irresponsible? How in the world could you look at yourself with any sense of pride or responsibility? Really, what are you thinking? Geezzz—I simply can’t believe your misdirected sense of the audiance. This one will be gone by year out!

  • janice

    Irena Klepfisz … you rock!! Couldn’t agree more.

  • Marie Mawe

    Bill Moyer’s retirement leaves a huge journalistic void thus I’m hoping that the people behind Need to Know stay focused. I was disappointed by the flashy electronic backdrop which reminded me of “nightly news”. In Pittsburgh the audio did not match the video but that may have been a local problem. The final segment seemed to be pandering to the Tonight Show crowd and was a great disappointment. There is real talent and potential behind your show. Don’t trivalize yourselves. Don’t “dumb it down” for us. You can be better than that. Marie Mawe

  • Wayne Satter

    Coming from a guy that is not used to watching news programs I enjoyed the show. I will keep an eye out for the show and watch again

  • fath, j

    Watched the program that fills the time-slot of NOW and Bill Moyers Journal.

    In no way can this ‘program’ ever ‘replace’ NOW and the Bill Moyers Journal.

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason it was created, it doesn’t begin to even compare with Sunday Morning, or Sixty Minutes, which it seems to try to mimic…

    I was able to do two or three other things, ‘multi-task’, while finding nothing compelling to devote my full attention to, as I did with NOW and the Bill Moyers Journal.

    It seems to be aimed at the younger crowd, who neither read, are unable to write, and can’t play anything other than an electric gitar…

    Clearly, the first episode lacks any class compared to NOW and the Bill Moyers Journal, and in comparison seems cheezie, and fit for the caps-on-all-the-time, fast-food and frozen foodies generation.

  • Daniel McGraw

    Loved the Borowitz segment at the end – it actually made me laugh out loud,

  • DB

    I miss NOW — a program I could always count on to develop an interest and curiousity in a topic or issue I might have never paid attention to. NOW programs were a fantastic supplement to the state & local government courses I taught. And NOW was the last tv program to depend on to get more than a sound bite on issues that affect our everyday lives. Need to Know seems like just another program that is telling us we have short attention spans.

  • Gwendolyn

    Nice start. I particularly liked Allison Stewart.

  • Marianne Simon

    A great disappointment. Very light, not interesting or challenging, no depth, no investigation. It’s a very poor replacement for Now and Bill Moyers’ Journal, which were the two most interesting Friday night programs. Why was Now cancelled? Is PBS going scared and humdrum? Who needs it?

  • Harley Dixon

    I give PBS a lot of credit for trying something new. This feels a lot younger than many PBS shows and may alienated some of the Moyers crowd. But there was good work here.

  • Julie Drizin

    Allison Stewart is a great host. We need more of her. The whole show needs a little more hip/engagement factor beyond just mentioning the website. The segment on the pill was very well done. The gun segment was also quite good. That Andy Borowitz segment was excruciatingly unfunny. Painful.

  • Peggy Myers

    Gosh – I was prepared to be thrilled with a thoughtful, timely news analysis program taking the time to really think through what it really is important to know. I found the topics and coverage to be superficial and trite – not PBS style at all – rather a poor copy of 60 minutes. Please get it together. Select really important topics and then give them thoughtful attention, as NOW did.

    And the Andy Rooney clone at the end simply added to my bitter disappointment.

  • de

    What’s so special about this show…Need to Know?

    It’s just like any comercial tv magazine show…little soundbites of stories with no indepth analysis. And who do they think Andy Borowitz is? He’s no Jon Stewart!

    I want Bill Moyers — or David Brancaccio — back in an hour-long news show!

  • Mary R

    Response to Mr. Dixon:
    What is “younger” code for? Lightweight? Superficial? Non-controversial? Emphasis on speed over depth? This is not what I expect of PBS on Friday night! If PBS can’t hold its own with true thoughtfulness why should we give it our money?

  • Ed P

    Will miss Bill but enjoyed this first installment. Best Wishes

  • Bob Whitney

    Good start!

    (However, in my opinion, Jon Meacham needs less makeup. The over-even matte finish of his face is unnatural and creates too great a contrast with the color of his lips (overemphasizing them).)

  • Bob Day

    Kill the last segment by Borowitz – it was terrible. Check out the podcast by the Economist on next week’s news. Now that is how you should end the show. The rest of the show was interesting and I liked it.

  • Cris McConkey

    Need to know, or need to barf?

  • sk

    Oh my god! I knew it wouldn’t be as good as Moyers. Nothing could be. But this was so bad! Cutesy superficiality emulating the worst of cable. Not even topics that are of prime importance today. What is PBS thinking!???

  • Linda

    Need to Know is a disappointing replacement for Bill Moyers Journal. He brought in a wide range of substantial, knowledgeable guests and engaged them in long conversations that made me want to know more.

  • Rosalyn Borg

    You “need to know” that unless some serious changes are made, “Need to Know” will never replace or come close to replacing “Bill Moyers Journal.” There was nothing new, unique, challenging or different about this first episode than other news magazines, no point of view, no perspective, including the segment with Pres. Clinton. Jon Meecham is a thoughtful journalist. What ever could he have been thinking to host this disappointing program. The final segment, predicting the news for next week with Alex Borowitz, was silly, insipid, and an insult to the intelligence of the people who turn to public television for intellectual conversation and respite from the usual garbage found on the networks and cable. If this is the best PBS can do, pandering to younger audiences–well–why should I bother making a contribution. The congressional hearings on C-SPAN were more interesting.

  • Don Harris

    I second Barbara Nelson’s comment:

    “Will the team of NOW be included? It was a sad night to have both The Journal and NOW discontinued – The Journal with great fanfare but not a word of explanation about NOW.
    Where is David Brancacio and Maria Hinojosa NOW.”

    I already miss NOW. Investigative journalism is hard to come by. We have FRONTLINE still, but I miss NOW already.

  • Noanie Rofoli

    Like everyone else, I too will miss Bill and The Journal, as well as the hosts and stories from NOW. Yes, I also wish-Need To Know-well, but I have to also admit that I am very concerned about host, Jon Meacham’s ability to present a story, without his usual, very Southern-elite conservative bias, albeit delivered in a relaxing, hushed drawl. I have seen and loved Alison’s work but I have also read Meacham’s Newsweek editorials and listened to him on Morning Joe and Charlie Rose, and have been troubled by Jon’s apparent inability to at least acknowledge, let alone present and discuss, both sides of a story and or argument. I am not claiming that only progressive, liberal or left wing biases should be represented but at least their biases appear to come with acknowledgment and some discussion of the opposing side. I have not seen this with regard to Jon’s editorials and discussions of relevant current affairs, especially of a political nature and what isn’t political these days? I will reserve judgement until viewing a few episodes of Need to Know, that will hopefully prove my concerns about Jon Meacham, to be premature and wrong.

  • Henry Sommerstorfer

    Saw the first show and enjoyed it very much. At least it was good info and comments, and listening to your guests withou interrupting and overshouting. Thank you for a nice informative broadcast. Keep up the good job.

  • Julie F

    Andy Borowicz is great on Huffington Post in writing. It’s a disaster to put him on Need to Know. His humor is for written format. But looks like the whole concept is a disaster here. This new lightweight news magazine format is an insult to the memory of Now and Moyers.

  • Callie

    The Borowitz segment at the end was genius. Very, very funny.

  • JAB

    When I saw Bill on – I turned it off. Don’t know how he found time away from his Goldman friends. Did he mention NAFTA or which of his favorite contractors got all our money in Haiti….not that I have anything against Haiti at all………………..or about helping others – just question their motives. Blah, Blah, Blah – I’ll try again next week. I miss BM and NOW soooo much already.

  • cristina east

    Diane sawyer and katie couric short hair alison

  • Ginny Lawson

    There were some down moments, but on the whole I thought it was refreshing. Allison S and Andy B are talents and they were highpoints.

  • Judy

    Bring back Maria Hinojosa and David Broncoccio, please. Viewers do not need another magazine show, and we do not all suffer from attention deficit disorder. From this display, I assume that PBS is running scared to the right. There is nothing on “Need To Know that I need to know.

    Judith Waterman

  • Dick Handleman

    Very good start – gun segment excellent.

  • Pat Jahn

    I saw nothing new, that hasn’t been reported hundreds of time before in papers, magazines, and television.

    What Sesame Street graduate found the need to write, repeat and rehash, something so boringly old, in a format that was successfully used to catch the attention span of Sesame Street viewers?

    These kids, will feel right at home watching their new need to know programming.

    It is plain to note, that everything that is new to the writers and tv executives of need to know, was old news to the rest of us, boring, repetitive, and not hardly up to the quality and expertise it purports to present as the new, need to know.

    Certainly, there is no need to waste time watching the second run of this program, if you are looking for interesting, quality, in-depth, investigative journalism…

    from people that haven’t been already interviewed hundreds of times in nearly every magazine, newspaper and tv program ad nauseam… ad infinitum.

  • Claire

    Am I alone, or did any one else feel as empty after watching this show that replaced Bill’s and NOW? It was like fast food, filling yet not nutritional. Help, I’m so hungry!

  • paul sauk

    My mind thirsts for in depth reporting. However, this program just skimmed the surface of the various news items. News that has been reported during the past weeks by tonnes of other news services thus not finding anything new here. Since most of these stories can be found elsewhere, why should I tune in this program for a rehash?

    The interview with President Clinton did provide me with some more insight into the man and some of his visions. The ‘future perspective’ implies we take responsibility for our actions now to create the path to the future we want for our children. However, the director needs to pay more attention to details as there was too many head bobbing shots of the hosts when Clinton was speaking, it began to look like the dashboard of ’57 Chevy with bobble dolls.

    i ‘need to know’ more in depth.

    I ‘need to know’ what i can’t find elsewhere.

    I ‘need to know’ what I can do about ‘future perspective’.

    I ‘need to know’ what is hidden in plain sight.

    I ‘need to know’ from those who swim against the current.

    I ‘need to know’ from those who stir up new currents.

    I ‘need to know’ what I didn’t know.

    I ‘need to know’ why i should watch this show next week

    i will be here again…I need to know…

    if it will get better
    if it will have a future perspective

  • jack

    Thank you for a GREAT show. Please keep up the good work. With all the screaming, yelling and partisan news casting here in America today we the public really need more balanced broadcasting. GOOD JOB>

  • Dorothy Blaustein

    Watched “Need to Know” this evening. Liked the part about guns very much, but I think I preferred your previous program NOW and the shows that followed it. I like investigative journalism that goes into important detail.

  • Daniel B.

    I often find that shows need time to find their form before attaining success. Need to Know hasn’t aired here in Los Angeles yet, but from these comments it seems those loyal to Moyers and NOW aren’t too fond of this show and its format. It does seem that this show caters to a younger audience used to a quicker format, the polar opposite of Bill Moyers’s approach. To write it off as a failure after an introductory episode, however, seems a bit harsh and premature. Moreover, it seems like there has been some backlash at the perceived pandering to a younger audience, which is a bit bothersome to me.

    “It seems to be aimed at the younger crowd, who neither read, are unable to write, and can’t play anything other than an electric gitar…”

    I can promise you that an illiterate teenager with no skills other than the ability to strum a few meager chords will probably want absolutely nothing to do with PBS. Furthermore the younger crowd that you stereotyped is much better educated than that, and does appreciate quality informational programming; I sadly only discovered Bill Moyers mere weeks before his retirement but am constantly on the lookout for fresh thoughts and ideas.

    The main difference between the generations is the contrasting methods with which we learned to absorb information growing up; in this increasingly digital and fast-paced world we have been blessed with a wealth of information at our fingertips, but cursed with the burden of sifting and filtering through it all. To manage this our attention spans are hopelessly short in comparison with previous generations, but in this digital age it is to our benefit.

    I’m going into the premiere of the show with zero expectations, but hope that afterthe a few weeks of tinkering Mr. Meacham and Ms. Stewart will find a way to push the format and carve an identity for themselves. Best of luck to them both!

  • Les Reynolds

    We were disappointed – it may be hard to follow/continue the type of show Bill Moyers gave us, but here is a suggestion – focus on specific one-on-one interviews with knowledgable people who present specific truths that shoot down current misleading publicity.
    There is so much falsehood now, especially from the panicked far right!
    We need truth and facts in areas where falsehoods now prevail.

    Just analyze recent shows by Moyers and select similar issues.

  • Diane Dilendik

    I thought the hosts are too subordinate to their guests – dont seem to question them on an equal basis.
    With Pres. Clinton – both didnt need to be there sitting like kids with a teacher in control and soooo glad to be there. Most important – I didnt really learn anything. Nice but too much like other shows that pick current events and tell a bit more. It is not wrong to have a point of view and continue to question a guest with another. I liked “Next Weeks News” but think the rest of the show is same old at a bit higher level.

  • EdV

    Frankly I thought the show was lightweight and was an all too familiar news magazine show without the commercials certainly not intended for a more mature and interested audience. As one commenter put it: “I found the topics and coverage to be superficial and trite – not PBS style at all – rather a poor copy of 60 minutes” – I couldn’t agree more. Moyers got involved in his show. He didn’t just report. There was a passion there coupled with and intellectual intensity that is sorely missing from Need To Know.
    Will give it a few more weeks to see if something of substance surfaces. Oh by the way, skip the Borowitz bit. Doesn’t cut it.

  • Cindy Bunning

    Agree with Diane Dilendik – Next Week’s News was the freshest thing on the show. Had never heard of Borowitz, but the material was extremely funny.

  • RE Mant

    Essentially Clinton’s view, like his teacher’s, is that of a Whig historian, and Whig, not Tory or Liberal history, has always been the one looking backwards.

    Regarding guns, the State of New York may be able to ban guns if it doesn’t conflict with the Federal constitution’s guarantee of a republican form of govt, but the Federal govt is prohibited by the 2nd amendment, and no amount of historical revisionism can change that.

    Fundamentally, I thought this program too much like propaganda to meet its stated object. All of the issues covered were liberal ones, and slanted in that direction. It felt like the laundry list in a Democratic State of the Union. I didn’t find the humor funny either. I would consider seriously firing some ppl and starting over.

  • northside

    These two had Bill Clinton sitting right in front of them. They lobbed him four sofballs and he stroked them all. Do you think for a second that David Bronchaccio or Bill Moyers would have let him get away with that? Not for a second! No wonder Clinton sat with them. I want to know what the famous Free Marketeer has to say about his philosophy now. Future, whatever the heck he had to talk about, my achin’ arches! I want to know about the past, and I want to know it NOW!

  • Corinne Livesay

    This is the first time I’ve been disappointed. Not because of the hosts, but because of the lack of depth. All the information given I already knew, and it all was dumbed down; tidbits. Moyer’s interviews gave me something to chew on. My whole neighborhood always remarked, “Did you hear Bill M. last night? What an interview! Those two guys — (or that woman) were fantastic, wern’t they? I can’t wait til next week.” Well, no more. Maybe I’ll get some reading done. And what about NOW? Also thought provoking, well done, and a program to anticipate. For God’s sake, DON’T pull FRONTLINE. You can’t top it. Whose dumb idea was this change, anyway?

    Sorry for the criticism, but my Fri. night, which I’ve coveted jealously, has been spoiled, except for Washington Week. Well, there’s always good ole Minnesota Public Radio and the CBC/BBC.

  • Anetwork

    Always give people the benefit of the doubt. I watched the show once. I won’t do it again. What is your purpose? Rehashing what the commercial networks served us all week? Kids out of college would do a better job. Is this really what PBS came up with as a replacement to The Journal? What a disgrace.

  • Emma

    There is a phrase that applies to the “new” Need Not To Know, pbs program.

    Been there, done that, and heard that before, so why waste our time with such stale subject material that’s as fresh as the newspapers used to wrap fish?

    Rupert Murdoch in a recent interview with Marvin Kalb replied in answer to Kalb’s question “What’s the future of journalism”…

    wherein Murdoch replied: ‘you tell me’.

    “We’ve conducted News Corporation research, and have found hardly anyone under the age of 30 who reads a newspaper on a daily basis.”

    No small wonder then, why people find the ‘Need To Know’ refreshing?

  • Laurel S.

    I second the woman who talked of feeling “empty.” That was exactly my feeling. Empty and despairing. Now has PBS too gone the way of the other channels which pander to superficiality? As if we can’t stand any slow-talking, deep-thinking conversation? As if we prefer a simulacrum of thoughtful news, i.e. being “in the know” rather than really knowing in depth what the issues are? And the choice of topics was pitiful. “Safe” segments on non-controversial or even historical topics like the pill instead of an “unsafe” point of view program on the really pressing issues like money in politics, the environment, etc. This program had better get change its concept or PBS loses my money for sure.

  • Lee Cockrell

    The first program was quite good, but I would like to comment on the part on gun control. I worked for over 10 years for a Mexican company, and I had occasions to visit with my mexican friends about issues such as this. private citizens in Mexico can not own a gun. The only people who have guns are criminals and the authorities of the government.

    My friends in Mexico felt strongly that part of the big problem in Mexico is that the common people can not defend themselves. The feel like sitting ducks, and they are at the mercy of corrupt officials and criminials who don’t respect the law anyway. If you want to know what it is like to live in a country with strict gun control laws, talk to the common folks in Mexico.

    I think this alternative point of view should be put the public as well as the usual nay sayers points of view by people who have not lived with it.

    Thanks! Lee Cockrell

  • George Perkins

    I am sad beyond belief. We indeed may need to know, but this show just skims the surface that is already well traveled by so many other news magazines. Where’s the attitude, the point of view?

    It’s common knowledge to many that mega-corporations have captured our congress and governmental agencies and the ensuing policies created by this arrangement has created a continuously widening disparity of economic wealth at the disadvantage to most Americans. Moyers had guests who probed and exposed these arrangements. NOW showed how these policies affected the average and the dispossessed that this corporate/government system is producing. Both shows helped us to see more clearly. Can you imagine how different these shows would have been had they practiced “he said, she said” journalism?

    If I’m going to continue to watch, Need To Know will need to offer information and insight that will serve to awaken and arm with awareness and continue to expose the forces that are creating this mass inequality.

    Choose sides. Take a stand.

  • K Nelson

    Now PBS has put 3 liberals on a “public” show. Alison Stewart has done her liberal stik on CBS; ABC: NBC & MSNBC subing for Keith Oberman & Rachel Maddox. Jon Meacham, editor of the bankrupt Newsweeks Mag.. thanks to his liberal view. Andy Borowitz is one steip short of Bill Mahar. What a line up .. What the viewers NEED to KNOW is this a liberal biased group making believe they are objective. i.e. The softball questions to Clinton were totally boring. Can you imagine what this show is going to look like in Sept-Oct during the election??? As an Independent taxpayer how can PBS claim to be objective? WE NEED TO KNOW

  • F Smitz

    I Need To Know, how much PBS had to pay Bill Moyers to ‘endorse’ this program?

    Probably, made retiring more than worthwhile?

  • Amy G.

    I am so disappointed in this program.

    -Superficial coverage. The Pill – really? No insight, just trite regurgitation of things that people already know.

    -Where is the in depth reporting? Seems like they cover too many issues superficially. BP oil spill could have been expanded. More context to the history of regulation, what controls exist in other countries, etc would have been helpful. Interviews with regulators may have helpful. Furthermore, I think Alison Stewart interrupted the interviewee at one point to interject some fact that she could have just asked the interviewee He could have probably given better prospective on the regulators, and she would seemed less self important.

    -The interview with Clinton was just embarrassing. Why were both of them just sitting there listening to him, and not pushing him on hard questions like deregulation during the Clinton years?

    -The ‘humor’ section at the end wasn’t funny, and serves to trivialize what PBS is pushing as informative programming.

    -Nightline is not the same on ABC any more, just an anemic shadow of what it once was. I feel that in NEED TO KNOW, PBS is travelling down the same path. Give us in depth interviews that more fully explore key issues of the day. If the subject matter is frame shifting and compelling, people will gravitate toward watching it on the web and discussion. Younger people are not going to gravitate toward stale rehash of the pill and softball with Bill Clinton. Give us some credit!

    I will try again, but if the quality does not improve soon, PBS will lose my financial support.

  • Glenn Kent

    Dear Need to Know
    You have a long way to go. Who needs another “news” magazine that covers major subjects in a cursory manor? With two talented people as co hosts if you fail to force the issue of acquiring very competent support staff both to dig and help guide the program, you will quickly loose anyone who truly has an interest in being informed. (You can’t follow a well known person with trivia.)

    Why did the question never come up regarding what should be obvious negligence causing the oil spill off Louisiana? Obvious because any competent business with moderate safety in mind would have had standard test and maintenance procedures to ensure the type of spill now in progress had near zero chance of occurring. How? During installation, first the valves that “failed” would have been rigorously tested at depth. The remotely operated vehicles and the valves would have been designed and verified for a functioning procedure that worked; again verified on site at depth. There would have been routine maintenance and regular test procedures to verify continuing reliability for both the valves and the alternate procedure using remote controlled vehicles. Any suggestion this is an extreme requirement or a hardship for a business pulling billions of dollars in profit from off shore drilling is just propaganda. This kind of testing is nearly a negligible cost next to the price tag for the drilling platform itself. Considering humans’ total lack of control of the oceans of the world and the potential hazards repeatedly demonstrated in the past, how could any reasonable multibillion dollar business assume it should do less? Why did you not interview businesses that have a reputation for safety (in any field) and how they go about developing safety precautions?

    Why did your team not pursue this kind of question and have “ammo” in the bag to ask tough questions? Why are you headed down the easy road of being “neutral”? It’s not neutral to be “neutral”. It empowers the “bad guys” to continue their extreme advantage using the money they take from the rest of us. You need to “pin the tail on the donkey” as honestly and fairly as possible. Do your homework and be thorough.

    Leave the “future news” out. It comes off suggesting lack of responsible interest in issues, not as funny. You can be “that funny” when you become “that good” at your primary function.

    Good luck

  • Richard Bohn

    I miss the depth, compassion and wisdom of Bill Moyers.

  • Lewis

    Very disappointing! There was nothing objective or investigative about the program. Little attempt to report both sides in any of the segments. Definitely “News Light”. There is already a plethora of programs on TV that appeal to those looking for predigested, spoon-fed reporting. We expect more from PBS than the usual fare.

  • Glenn Kent

    Gun Carrying
    I find it inconceivable people who believe it wise to publicly carry their “fire extinguisher” of choice do not comprehend their “protection” of choice is filled with an accelerant the equivalent of gasoline. At 65 my life’s circumstance has seen war only indirectly, yet witnessed its horror. My upbringing has been inclusive of people who are different in cultures and religions. No blow has been struck in anger; though I’m fully aware there are dangerous people “within arms’ reach”. Yet with this background, seeing someone carrying a gun causes fear gun promoters desire. My fear is as much for my own anger-response as it is for people who believe the world is better off with a culture based on intimidation; gun psychology. The self anger is I feel aggression; not my normal reaction to people who are different. I want to slap these people silly for their misplaced macho hormones. Their equal opportunity disease of aggression is infectious.

  • David

    I was glad to see an attempt to present both sides on the gun issue, but disappointed in the obvious liberal slant. The host made some sort of strangling noise in a poor attempt to cover his disbelief when one interviewee said it would have been better to have a gun battle on the planes that flew into the World Trade Center than to have the planes fly into the World Trade Center. Unbelievable? Wouldn’t saving 3,000 lives have been worth it? Why do you think we now have sky marshals? I’m not in favor of civilians carrying on planes – provided we can be 100% certain that only the sky marshals (and the pilots) are armed – but the interviewee’s point was perfectly logical.

    Also, when a person on camera was deeply disturbed that a gun owner had his gun cocked in his secured holster, no one bothered to point out – at least to the audience later on – that handguns are typically carried that way, and certainly that is how the police carry theirs (cocked, or in a similar state of readiness to fire, depending on the gun model). The risk of the firearm going off accidentally is virtually zero, and the risk of a criminal coming into the store to rob or kill is many fold higher.

  • Dr. Frank Hyatt

    I watched this once to see if it would have the typical liberal bias one associates with PBS and Jon Stewart, and was not disappointed. Your coverage of the gun issue was predictable, and of the pill, and its role in the “sexual revolution” (i.e. modern uncontrolled fornication, forbidden by, among others, Jesus Christ) not once was was the Central Fact of the universe – God – considered, such, by gentlemen’s agreement, being embarrassingly bad form, One recalls George Orwell’s, “Some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.” Borowitz was so unfunny I was embarrassed for him.

  • Eli Rivers

    If the first show is going to be a good example of what will be airing, I won’t be wasting my time again. The show is fluffy, lightweight and has that horrible ring of “dumbing down”. It reminds me of a vacuous Sunday news magazine on commercial television without less ads.

    As Mecham warned us in the beginning, it wasn’t to replace Bill Moyers, but it would “turn on the light, but not the heat”. Well, there certainly weren’t any screaming opinions, but there wasn’t any in-depth reporting either. This program is a news failure. I get a better news analysis & wrap-up by going to GoogleNews.

  • David

    I carry a gun in Virginia, as the gentleman in the story does. I do not do so in a desire to cause fear or to intimidate, as you state. I do so in order to protect myself or my loved ones from violent attack from criminals. Google the massacre at Luby’s cafeteria in Texas, where a madman killed over 20 people, or the more recent murder of over 30 students and faculty at Virginia Tech. The police cannot be everywhere to defend me, there aren’t enough of them, but I have the constitutional right to defend myself. I’m sorry that you feel anger and the desire to assault people who hold different views than you. But knowing this about yourself is a good reason to choose not to be armed. Those of us who are confident in our ability to act responsibly are grateful for the 2nd amendment.

  • Robyn

    Not bad. One suggestion – please keep the hosts separate, especially in interviewing. It’s not the prom, you know! If you’re not going to separate them, at least raise meachem’s chair.

    And KEEP BOROWITZ!!!!!

  • Pat Burton

    I found it to be a really excellent beginning to what will be a serious attempt to put more “meaning” into what are essentially sound bites. I have not been a constant listener of Bill Moyers but I am certain he would approve of his replacement.

  • David O’Connor

    I was dissapointed. I am a fan of Jon’s and he was missing from the broadcast. If this was a trial balloon, send up a different one next week. Maybe I misunderstood Jon on “Morning Joe” but we
    are trying a new, different, previously undone concept to sell for $$$. On my block in Lee’s Summit MO we ain’t buying this copy.I’ll come back till ya get it right. Thanx
    Be Well

  • James

    I am very disappointed with PBS:
    First NOW is reduced from 1 hour to 30 minutes, and now it is canceled and replaced with Need to Know.
    Bill Moyers retires and they do not continue with a show like it.
    Need to Know is just like the other news magazine shows minus the commercials.

  • Gordie Hayduk


    Now I know what Bill Moyers meant by “…it’s time to go.” He saw right through you air-heads and distanced himself and from PBS management.

    What a sorry, sad sack program — no need to give it a second chance because my first impression was enough to say never again! I need to go watch the grass grow or something similar.

  • Carol

    Good wines need time to mature, and you’ve got a tough act to follow – but how could you do a segment on guns in Virginia without a single reference to Virginia Tech?

  • tippy

    I had to turn it off because I found it so lacking in originality, depth, interest, production value. Good grief – doesn’t PBS even have a dresser to make sure people have their clothes on the right way? PBS should go back to presenting more arts programs (dance, theater, music) – this stuff I can read on the web. Someone with talent will emerge to fill the Moyers’ void sooner or later.

  • J-Man

    OK, I wanted to like this show, but when I heard the narrator use the name “Smithsonian INSTITUTE” in the birth control pill story, you lost credibility with me. No proofreaders or fact checkers?

  • Alicia

    Wow! Some harsh comments for a show that just debuted!

    Here are my two cents for what they are worth:
    - It definitely lacks the intellectual depth of Bill Moyers, although I don’t think there will ever be a program on TV like it. I am unfamiliar with Allison Stewart’s work but I am certain, by judging from Jon Meacham’s appearances on Charlie Rose and others, as well as his Newsweek editorials, that he can reach such intellectual intensity. Don’t waste him on lightweight pieces.
    - Rather than covering many pieces on one show, maybe just cover 2 or 3 in depth.
    - Liked the gun piece. It sent chills up my spine (no age restrictions for guns manufactured in the same state? Seriously? Unbelievable!).
    - Liked the Andy Borowitz ending. The ‘Phonebook’ and the Palin/Bachmann bits were hilarious.
    I hope they experiment with the format a little. I think both hosts so close together at the beginning and the end, as well as when sitting with President Clinton -which could have been a longer, more profound piece, btw- was kind of awkward.

    I will definitely watch again.

  • L Smith

    This program is a big disappointment and I won’t watch it again. I agree with the comments that “Need to Know” is lightweight and lacks originality, depth or real reporting. The interviewers are uninformed and sometimes fawning. For instance, during the opening segment about the BP Gulf oil leak, Ms. Stewart seemed unaware that other places like Europe and Brazil require a $500,000 remote shutoff valve which would have prevented the major leak we have now, but the oil companies successfully lobbied against that requirement saying it would be too expensive. Now BP will pay billions and the ecosystems will be damaged for a century or more. BP also has a terrible safety record and should not have been allowed to drill there. Bill Moyers (a real journalist) would have emphasized that this was preventable and gone into more detail about the industry’s safety record and the story behind the story. I didn’t learn anything new from this or any of the other dull segments. What PBS executives “need to know” is that I don’t intend on watching this program again and won’t donate to PBS until they put back on the air some real journalists like Bill Moyers and David Branccachio.

  • ralph

    “Need to Know” has about the hardest audience to please right now. Remember this is Friday night, and these folks still want intelligent conversation and depth…about things we not only know about but care about. We saw not much of these things on the first run of “Need to Know”. Younger shouldn’t have to mean dumber too. Still, we hope the program will improve.


  • Kathy Utz

    Don’t think it is a good idea to replace Bill Moyer’s with a children’s show. I’m all for confining the wonderful children’s offerings you provide to the daytime.
    Mr. Meacham seemed to be in pain throughout the program. Can’t help but think he knew better.

  • Selina Sweet

    So disappointing intellectually. I feel bereft! Truly. How exciting it was to be able to learn from serious thinkers (economists, philosophers, poets, social scientists, authors from all sorts of fields, etc) because of Moyer’s own deep and probing questions spurred them to meet him at a level no where else encountered on TV. And, how educative were David Brancocio’s and Ms. Henahosa’s investigative sojourns into life at the ground level in so many areas of life that by contrast I could see how much “news” today really is infotainment masking social problems I need to know and take action about. Need to Know is dismissably lightweight. So very sorry. At 68 years old I’m sad at the loss of two programs carrying moral and intellectual vigor.

  • C. Cooperman

    I will miss the Bill Moyers program for its educational content. It was a wonderful source of information on current events. Tonight, I saw the first “Need to Know” in the L. A. area and I’m very pleased. It is very informative and timely and I will continue to watch it; it’s a worthy replacement to the Moyers program. I learned things from the Clinton interview about the work in Haiti that I never heard before. The same for the absolutely frightening interviews with the pro gun people. You have impressive, top drawer guests whose comments and opinions are authoritative. I got a big kick out of the Borovitz segment at the end, when I finally realized it was the comic part of the program. Very good, altogether. I’m so pleased to see a female TV commentator dressed appropriately for the job instead of like someone who is bar-hopping.

  • bob

    This was the blockbuster debut? Interviews with spotlight hungry politicians and right wing gun wackos? I”m so disappointed. This is not a public affairs show, it’s tabloid journalism aka “Entertainment Tonight”. Dear PBS; cancel Need to Know and air reruns of the Red-Green Show.

  • Cheri Chamberlain

    I think you’ve “got it”! There are many things the public needs to know and be able to believe in. This is a great start. Thanks for taking the time to present the necessary.

  • Rachel

    I have to say I agree with most of the folks here – kind of disappointed. I’ll give the show a few more viewings, but really, not engaging with the people who are guests on your show – I mean, journalism means asking the questions of our news makers, not just giving them a chance to state their opinions without question. Giving gun advocates a platform for their views just seems bizarre without having enough of the facts about gun violence illustrates a lack of concern with high standards for facts, intelligent analysis or any semblance of questing the status quo.

    I think I’m just more shocked that PBS doesn’t have Bill Moyers anymore, NewsHour is increasingly breezy, and to top it off, Worldfocus – a real news show showing perspectives we don’t usually get to view – is gone, to be replaced by this. I’m beginning to wonder what happened to PBS.

  • Jean

    A crushing disappointment.
    Noisy, hurried, hitting only familiar selling points, disturbing rather than thought-provoking. Is that your goal?
    Was that your idea of an interview?Sample: No definition of GPS? Not a real dialogue, a stagey, predictable, uncomfortable Q and A.
    Why are you trading the one oasis of intellectual stimulation on TV for sound-bites and flashing lights and why did you begin with such a sensitive social issue as guns? Really want to get attention – what kind of attention? To a highly emotional issue? Especially in giving such a large percentage of time in that segment to the pro-gun owners? Balanced? It seemed your point of view was showing and that it was mom and apple pie American to carry at least one gun everywhere. An insufficient response to that argument.
    Couldn’t we have at least one truly intelligent conversation to turn to in these stressful times?
    The Wasteland just got more waste dumped on it, and there goes that treasured Friday night quiet food for thought.
    I’m out. And the disappointment with PBS is visceral. And sad.

  • Paul

    We agree with many of the comments about the lightweight nature of the show such as the one posted by Corinne Livesay (shown in part below). The show reminds me of just another lightweight format like USA Today. We were faithful viewers of both ‘NOW” and Bill Moyer’s show. My guess is that at least with the cancellation of “NOW” that it must have generated too much controversy that was not viewed kindly by potential commercial advertisers that PBS is now seeking. And like Corinne mentioned below, we hope that you do not drop “FRONTLINE”.

    It seems to be just another “dumbed-down” news tabloid.

    We are also very disappointed.

    Below partial quote from an earlier reviewer:
    Corinne Livesay
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    This is the first time I’ve been disappointed. Not because of the hosts, but because of the lack of depth. All the information given I already knew, and it all was dumbed down; tidbits. Moyer’s interviews gave me something to chew on. My whole neighborhood always remarked, “Did you hear Bill M. last night? What an interview! Those two guys — (or that woman) were fantastic, wern’t they? I can’t wait til next week.” Well, no more. Maybe I’ll get some reading done. And what about NOW? Also thought provoking, well done, and a program to anticipate. For God’s sake, DON’T pull FRONTLINE. You can’t top it. Whose dumb idea was this change, anyway?

  • Megan Graye

    Not to detract from Allison Stewart and Jon Meacham as persons. They are reasonably good television personalities, and Borowitz has a cute presentation a’la Andy Rooney. All of these people are worthy of vastly better programming vehicles.

    We do not need another “news” magazine. We expect Frontline/NOW quality programming and this seemed much more like ABC’s 20/20 or Nightline circa 2008; most unworthy of PBS or WNET. What have we done to deserve this?!! We need sincere, in-depth, penetrating discussions and investigations, not attention-deficit-disorder paced gloss and message.

    P.S. The line up for next week also promises to provide shallow glimpses into topics of rather questionable relevance. Please reclaim the high standards of intelligent analysis and sincere investigation.

  • TC

    I (don’t) want my NPR-TV. Sorry, but that’s what it felt like. Or even “Adult Kids News”

    C+ . Please try harder. We “jilted” NOW & Journal viewers do have our expecations.

  • TC

    PS: Oh yeah, the “slacker attempts the Peter Gunn Theme” music had me dancing in the aisles.
    i.e. “Here’s my eye roll.” (thus sprach der open-carry goob)

  • a. sprecher

    I was very disappointed with your new show. I read the New York Times,listen to NPR shows and watch the Lehr Report.This show added nothing to what I’ve alredy heard/read.Bill Moyers is a tough act to follow,but you didn’t even try to emulate him. Light weight is being kind. This looked like a copy of 60 minutes. There was no depth to the stories. Mr. Meacham is a bright man,with good credentials, he should be ashamed of this show. I kept wondering what David Branccachio and Maria Hinajosa would have brought to an hour new show. My thought was that PBS is afraid of appearing to liberal by asking any controversial questions..either that or they feel the need to dumb down the show for a “wider” audience.
    You had a real story in your first segment if you had bothered to talk about BP’s long history of safety problems and if you had gone into answering why the U.S. doesn’t make oil companies follow procedures that are required in Europe. I also wanted to know about the problem in Timor and other oil disasters that haven’t been covered….Thumbs down for this show and PBS

  • Val D.

    This was disappointing. PBS, please search for hosts and programming that are as sophisticated, informed/informative, challenging and important as Moyers/The Journal and Brancaccio/Hinojosa/Now. Please don’t waste precious time with the comedy of Borowitz. I’m sure he is a fine, talented person, but I came to the program to be informed, not entertained. The Journal and Now helped to make me a better citizen. I’m pretty sure Need to Know will not have a similar impact.

  • Marcie Bierlein

    What a disappointing, boring show. It was more of the same information already covered elsewhere and in the usual tabloid format. What is wrong with you guys?? I cannot believe anyone at PBS honestly thought that “Need to Know” could even begin to replace the in-depth discussions that Bill Moyers had every week with his guests or the 30 minutes of thoughtful journalism found with NOW. I used to really look forward to some intellectual stimulation on Friday nights. Now a big portion is gone. Since I watch the news all week and read the New York Times, even “Washington Week” doesn’t tell me anything new. How about bringing David B. and Maria H. back for an hour of NOW?

  • Terry

    The show will, hopefully, improve; it can’t get much worse. In all my 35+ years of watching, I don’t recall ever being disappointed in a PBS show before…. but it’s really too early to give it a grade.

    This show did nothing to quench my thirst for the thoughtful, passionate investigative reporting previously served up in the the two shows no longer airing: NOW and Bill Moyer’s Journal. I recently began watching television again after over 15 years, during which time I didn’t even own a TV – and the Friday line up was something I looked forward to all week. Don’t even think about cutting Glenn Ifil, or I will have no need for my TV. Why couldn’t you have at least expanded NOW into an hour long segment?

    “Need to Know” didn’t tell me anything new, nor did it go into any depth. With half the time, “NOW” went much deeper and was much more hard hitting…I kept getting the impression that NTK’s interviews were scripted. The new show seems aimed at a younger audience, with the shorter bits, but who was the rocket scientist who thought that this demographic would even be at home at 9pm on a Friday, much less sit and watch (such superficial) television?

    And toss the sad Monty Pythonesque charade at the end; at least Monty Python, in it’s time, was funny.

  • Fabio

    It is an excellent show. I really liked the subjects covered and the dynamism present during the entire program.

  • Dave Kemble

    Many others have already said here what I think about “Need to Know,” but still I have to add my voice to say that it was a BIG disappointment. Bill Moyers it ain’t! Now I only have Frontline to look forward to for intelligent, incisive TV coverage of political events and social issues. (Please don’t cut that off or change its format!!) This show with its more “lively” format just dishes out more of the shallow “infotainment” you get on the commercial channels. It makes me feel sad and depressed. Is this really the best PBS can do???

  • A. Fisher

    TOTAL DISAPPOINTMENT!!! As a member of the “younger” audience that you are apparently targeting I was offended. I have a Masters degree. If I was looking for pap I would turn on Comedy Central.

    Is this seriously the replacement for Bill Moyers Journal? No. No. No. When I originally found Bill Moyers Journal I was shocked at the depth of coverage. You can’t find that level of conversation anywhere else on television. I suppose, NOW, you can’t find it at all.

  • Anne

    Dear PBS,

    Sorry to tell you this (because I LOVE PBS), but watching this program was a complete waste of time. I MISS Bill Moyers and David Bronchaccio already, especially because this program, with its current team, will never come close to providing the quality journalism and in-depth interviews provided by Bill Moyers and David Bronchaccio on a weekly basis. What Meacham and Stewart provided us was pap, and they provided me with absolutely NOTHING I already didn’t know or needed to know. Watching this program was the visual equivalent of reading Jon Meacham’s failing Newsweek magazine: I’ve already read about this elsewhere, it’s old news, and you have NOTHING to say to me that I don’t already know and, unlike what Bill Moyers and David Bronchaccio did on a weekly basis, you provided me with absolutely NO information that I really DID need to know.

    I understand that Bill Moyers wanted to retire, and I truly grieve this loss for PBS and its viewing audience But I don’t believe that retirement was the goal of David Bronchaccio or Maria Hinojosa when NOW was knocked off the air. Why weren’t David Bronchaccio and Maria Hinojosa offered this show? Both have a solid history of investigative journalism, a long association with PBS, and on-air experience. And neither of them would have fobbed off the kind of soft-ball, inane questions to Bill Clinton as did the “Need to Know” team.

    I like Alison Stewart: she was a more than competent news reader on ABC and MSNBC. She always came off as smart, often displaying great wit and intelligence, and was certainly easy on the eyes. But what is her experience as an investigative journalist? And what about Jon Meacham? We all know that he has run Newsweek into the ground. But just what is HIS history has a journalist, much less an investigative journalist?

    Jon Meacham is a prime example of the creature know as a Washington Villager, the Beltway insider who will always defend, and never challenge, the political and media elite who inhabit the Beltway Bubble — not now, not EVER. And why not? Because, unlike Bill Moyers or David Bronchaccio, Jon Meacham is one of them, a member of the Beltway elite, a tribe which always defends its own members. And if you doubt that, just consider one of Meacham’s more memorable quotes:

    “That is not to say presidents and vice presidents are always above the law; there could be instances in which such a prosecution [a prosecution of Bush and Cheney for war crimes] is appropriate, but based on what we know, this is not such a case.”
    — “The Editor’s Desk,” by Jon Meacham. Newsweek, Issue dated May 4, 2009, posted April 25, 2009. []

    So, according to Meacham, presidents and vice-presidents are not ALWAYS above the law, just (apparently) most of the time, and certainly, according to Meacham, when it comes to committing war crimes — for which, despite Meacham’s contention, there is SUBSTANTIAL evidence. The above quote, and Meacham’s whole article from which it came, was a perfect illustration of the Orwellian notion that “some are more equal than others,” an example of what could be described as the “Animal Farm defense” after the motto in George Orwell’s novel “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

    Meacham also wrote this in his infamous “For the Editor” screed about the perils of a Congressional probe into Bush’s torture regime (or what Meacham describes as ” brutal interrogation methods,” a bland euphoniums used by most of the media to describe what is, in fact, a war crime):

    “[H]ow we turn back the page. Is a Watergate- or Iran-contra-style congressional probe the way to go? No, for public hearings encourage—demand, really—dramatic plays for attention from lawmakers. Such a stage would lead to the expression of extreme views.

    “So we do not want that. Nor, I think, do we want to open criminal investigations into those who participated in brutal interrogation methods. And to pursue criminal charges against officials at the highest levels—including the former president and the former vice president—would set a terrible precedent.”

    Jon Meacham does not want an open examination of Bush’s torture program because it would set a “terrible precedent.” Yes, indeed it would. It would demonstrate that even a president is never above the law, a belief demonstrably not shared by Meacham when it comes to his fellow members of the Washington elite.

    So just exactly why did PBS replace Bill Moyers program with a program co-hosted by a Washington insider who has already demonstrably proven that he has absolutely no intention of, or even the inclination to, telling us what we REALLY need to know? Maybe PBS, and this program’s viewers, might want to read this (rather scathing) examination of Jon Meacham’s mind-set to learn more about Meacham’s manifestly evident approach to providing PBS viewers’ what they “need to know:”
    “Jon Meacham’s subservient defense of monarchical power”
    Glenn Greenwald blog,, posted Monday, April 27, 2009 09:52 ET

    Maybe Washington insider Jon Meacham will surprise us. Maybe Washington insider Jon Meacham will use his new platform to explain to those of us who are NOT Washington insiders when, exactly, the President is above the law and when he is not? Maybe Washington insider Jon Meacham will use his new platform to explain just what is so horrible about “extreme views” that we should ignore serious crimes to avoid hearing them aired in public? It seems to me that quite a few “extreme views” were aired during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and we survived THOSE “extreme views,” mainly from Republicans which were mirrored in the daily denouncements and villifications of Clinton by the mainstream media [MSM], even in the “liberal” New York Times which relentlessly hounded Clinton for almost the entire eight years Clinton was in office And, most importantly, maybe Washington insider Jon Meacham will use his new platform to explain why and how prosecuting political leaders who broke the law, flouted the constitution and tossed our treaty obligations in the trash would set a “bad precedent?” But I’m not holding my breath.

    So until I hear that Jon Meacham is going to do a serious, in-depth program about Bush’s war crimes, I will not watch this program again. I’ve got better things to do than watching the TV version of cotton candy force-fed by an Beltway insider.

    Better yet, … instead of waiting around for John Meacham to shed his Washington insider mind-set in order to tell us what we REALLY “need to know, PBS should cut its losses and dump this program and go back to the drawing program. There are serious journalists and investigative reporters who could take Bill Moyers place. But this team will never come even close. And if this program is an example of what is to follow, this team never will.

    So…admit it, PBS. This program is a terrible mistake. It is a complete waste of your viewers’ time, PBS’ resources and the program donors’ money. Start anew, and give some serious investigative journalists a chance to do what Bill Moyers, David Bronchaccio and Maria Hinojosa did so well on every single program for year after year. Glenn Greenwald of might be a candidate as host or co-host for a revamped show. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now is another possible candidate. Jeremy Scahill is yet another. If you’re looking for someone who has immediate name recognition for “seriousness,” I hear Ted Koppel is looking for a new gig. Or maybe you could steal Rachel Maddow away from MSNBC: she is extremely intelligent, has a great on-air presence, is not afraid to tackle controversial topics, is a great interviewer, and is incredibly well-prepared every time she appears on-air. And there are a host of others out there with Greenwald’s, Goodman’s, Scahill’s, Koppel’s and Maddow’s work ethic, stature and independence. Just find them and move forward, not, as you are doing now, backwards into a TV version of a failing, and now irrelevant, weekly news magazine headed by an establishment journalist whose primary function, as candidly described by Evan Thomas, one of John Meacham’s star reporters at Newsweek, is as follows:

    “By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring.
    — “Obama’s Nobel Headache,” by Evan Thomas. Newsweek, Issue date April 6, 2009; posted March 28, 2009.

    If PBS keeps Meacham on this show, I can only assume that PBS made the decision (consciously or unconsciously) to hire, and keep, Jon Meacham precisely because Meacham has “a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are,” “propping up the existing order”, “[s]afeguarding the status quo, [and] protecting traditional institutions.” If that WAS the basis for hiring and keeping Meacham, Meacham proved on his first show that he is most certainly up to the task.

    In sum, my verdict for this program: pathetic, just pathetic.

  • Noanie Rofoli

    Ditto with paul sauk’s post. Need to Know didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know a week ago from other, more in depth coverage. Need to Know was an embarrassment and seems to confirm my post prior to viewing the first episode. You’re kidding us, PBS, right?

    I Need to Know:

    1. If President Clinton accepts any responsibility for his part in allowing Wall Street to take us to the cleaners and all but ruin our great country by him repealing the Glass Steagall Act of 1933?

    2. If President Clinton accepts any responsibility for helping to ruin the working middle class by passing NAFTA?

    3. If the NRA paid Jon Meacham for his gun story?

    4. If our elected officials see a future, theirs or ours, after voting with Wall Street and against us?

    5. Why PBS thought Southern elite, conservative, Jon Meacham, could possibly present any political story, be it guns or Wall Street Reform ( too heavy for Need to Know judging by tonight’s episode) without his glaring bias?

    6. Where is NOW and when will it return?

    See paul sauk’s post for my … Need to Know… list… thanks Paul.

  • Roy B. Scherer

    The show has promise, though it clearly has a way to go.

    The part that sticks in my mind, unfortunately, is the look of stunned disbelief on the face of the interviewer when the pro-self-defense speaker mentioned that if there had been just one armed passenger on each of the two World Trade Center flights, the tragedy may well have been prevented. He seemed to go into brain-freeze at the thought of a gunfight inside a jet plane. Too bad that he wasn’t capable of understanding that even the worst-case outcome of such a fight, causing the aircraft to crash somewhere random and kill everybody aboard, would have still saved several thousand lives.

    Perhaps the true difference between those who choose to carry means of self-defense and those who do not is that those who choose to act responsibly are the ones who aren’t afraid to think about unpleasant possibilities.

  • Glenn Kent

    David; since I’ve been addressed directly
    Please do more research. First; it is not possible for any human to be protected via any means all of the time from any form of violence, manmade or natural. Second; do you really believe young adults (30 students and faculty at Virginia Tech) should be trained to carry guns to class for protection? There is plenty of research to show young adults are more dangerous driving automobiles do to their decision making processes. Are you planning to attend classes with your loved ones?

    You misdirected or misunderstood the point of my comment. One: I’ve lived a culturally inclusive and nonviolent life as stated (a fortunate circumstance). “Slap people silly” and discussion of “self anger and aggression” is a metaphor for wake-up call. People carrying guns evoke emotional responses regardless of their “benign” intentions. In short, guns generally bring more tension to potentially dangerous situations. In the extremely rare case of a madman (try being struck by lightning for a more likely risk); by definition a madman with intentions to kill who opens fire is not going to be slowed by other guns in the area. Assuming you have the controlled presents of mind you indicate to analyze the situation and have a clear shot to take this madman down plus the skill to be accurate under these circumstances, for your own safety I hope you choose to take cover instead. It’s unlikely a madman will just give you a clear opportunity to shoot unfettered. Two: carrying a weapon is an aggressive act regardless of whether you believe it to be a controlled act or not. For this reason, the presents of guns makes many people nervous.

    Hopefully you will never be put in jeopardy. But if in a hostile situation, I sincerely hope your protection doesn’t inadvertently cause the wrong person to suffer. I for one do not want to trust my fate to potential misinterpretations of someone protecting themselves with a gun. Why is it that in public places gun carrying folks on both sides of the law believe they have the right to give me no choice?

  • L. DiPasquale

    I think some of the comments here have been a bit harsh. It’s tough pulling together a new television program, particularly one that claims to be breaking new ground. I’m willing to give these folks some time to find their footing. That said, improvements do need to be made. I think PBS needs to remember what programs NTK is replacing and that both programs had a following. Certainly, Bill Moyers did and, judging by the comments here, I’d say NOW did as well. I watched and appreciated both programs, but considered Bill Moyers indispensible. If I missed catching it on Friday nights, I would view it online.

    My main suggestion is that I think this new program needs to focus on fewer issues and go deeper into them. People can get the broader breadth of issues on the website – isn’t that supposed to be the point of this new venture anyway? One of the things that distinguished the Journal was that it was very clear that Moyers and his team had done their homework for each program. If a writer was featured, as was often the case, it was clear that Moyers had done a serious reading of his or her work and was genuinely interested in hearing what the writer had to say. Sometimes he got so into the discussion it looked as though he was going to jump out of his chair in anticipation of the next question.

    Unfortunately, while Jon Meacham is an accomplished writer and editor, he comes across in NTK as someone who’s just fitting this into his schedule as a part-time venture. This isn’t his main job and it shows. No wonder he didn’t bother to mention it in his appearance on The Daily Show. I didn’t get a strong sense of Alison Stewart, and perhaps that says something in itself. Don’t get me wrong – I think there’s real potential here. Both these people are accomplished journalists – the problem is that they’re being used mostly as mannequins. Better to have lesser known, highly skilled journalists who are committed to this particular program than better known personalities who are just squeezing it into their schedules. Aside from that, why not bring back familiar faces, with David Brancaccio doing special reports and Bill Moyers doing the occasional commentary?

    One other thing, while I consider myself a fan of Andy Borowitz, his bit at the end of the show was a mistake. It should have at least been preceded by some introduction of just who Andy Borowitz is. My guess is that a significant portion of the Journal audience had not a clue. In any case, his bit seemed almost flippant and jarring tacked on at the end of what was supposed to be a serious program about serious issues, as if you were saying, “Just kidding.” I think he might have a place on the program, but not in such a jarring fashion. You should not have as your goal to be the PBS version of Huffington Post. And, whatever that segment was about with Alison Stewart and the singer, I couldn’t tell you because it went by so quickly, I missed it.

    I understand that you are going for a younger demographic and that is not in itself a bad thing, but, please, PBS, don’t try to be too hip. The truly hip young people are not watching television on Friday nights at 8:30.

    Overall, fewer stories, more depth, please. I would take no pleasure in seeing you fail.

  • A.K.G.

    The issue based discussion here seems to be primarily on gun control and BP. PBS/Need to know should take a cue from this discussion and focus more on issues like these and less on the pill and Bill Clinton’s “vision.”

    As the change in format seems to be a bid to attract younger viewers, PBS needs to remember that younger people do want substantive coverage. The younger generation is full of people who willingly spend extra for things like environmentally friendly products, or organic food because they believe that stewardship is important. We live in a time where alternative message films are beginning to get mainstream coverage (An Incovenient Truth, Food Inc., Michael Moore’s work are massively popular and recognizable). And programs like Democracy NOW are gaining increased popularity on the web, because there is a yearning among younger people to be informed. There is a thirst for in depth exploration of issues.

    Ideas to consider for future broadcasts:
    gentrification of quality food – are poor people able to afford nutrition
    farm subsidies and impact on food costs
    Rising popularity of local food/coop/farmers markets – are people getting different quality food, or is it just hype?

    Is it really regulation if there is no enforcement
    Corporate funding of elections
    Health Care Bill Implications
    Taxation structure in 50s/60s as compared to now particularly with regards to the wealthy

    More in depth analysis of BP oil spill
    BPA and the FDA
    Pharmaceutical Industry Regulation

    These are issues I’d like to explore further, not some history of ‘The Pill.’ Even exploring the first two stories in a more thoughtful, in depth way would be preferable.

  • xavier

    What a phenomenal disappointment! Even worse than I had expected!!!

    This program is so pale compared to NOW and Bill Moyers’ Journal. An imitation of 60-minutes, with a weird selection of topics, shallow coverage, all softball interviews, and high reliance on celebrity effect (like Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg), this comes no where near what NOW and the Journal did in in-depth, investigative reporting on issues that really matters to regular people, the country, and the world. This is what all commercial mediocre journalists can do, but why put such a program on PBS?! People watch PBS because they are not satisfied with the commercial mass media!

    This program is an insult to PBS reviewers’ intelligence, a shame to and a disaster of PBS! Just look at the topic selection for the coming episode of Need to Know, I am even embarassed for this program, for PBS, as a reviewer.

    Along with removing NOW from the air, I am wondering what happened to PBS. It seems to have lost its soul!

    Take this program off the air and get back the NOW program for a full hour, NOW!

  • Marna Laurel

    I also was very disappointed with this first program. I agree they should just do a couple of stories in depth. I couldn’t believe how superficially the oil spill issue was handled. There is so much history, negligence and politics involved in this tragedy and none of it was even mentioned. I, too, used to look forward to Friday evenings with NOW and Moyers but that is history now. I turned off the TV during the boring Clinton interview. Yeah, ask him how NAFTA has worked out next time! I have always counted on PBS to really tell my what I need to know, but they have failed in this venture and I am disappointed beyond words. The watered down version of the truth does not serve anyone and I will not waste my time watching this program anymore. PBS has made a huge error in judgement putting this erroneously named show on the air.

  • Alan

    My thoughts would echo those of L. DiPascuale above. I do believe many of the commenters are rushing to judgment on the basis of a single show, and that is not fair. The Borowitz piece was hilarious, but should have been introduced–it also went too quickly. The show gave the impression, probably reflecting reality, that it was produced by committee and stitched together at the last minute. In contrast to Moyers, who had been on the scene for decades, these hosts have earn credibility and present their stories in a meaningful manner. Please consider featuring more conversation and fewer stories–that’s the niche (and audience) left by Moyers. There’s plenty of novelty and hipness elsewhere. Don’t go for it. Otherwise, the show runs the risk of being homogenized into marginality, or worse, a high-brow parody of the talking heads shows it seeks to rise above. It simply cannot be all things to all people, and will succeed long run only if the audience it picks up exceeds the audience it loses. Start with considering who the target audience is. Overall, for a premier show, not bad. Be encouraged.

  • marge meinke

    my husband & i enjoyed the first show.But find the time,on the half hour,disconserting,also we love political satire,but please omit it from the ending.I am sure it will improve alisons skirt too short when seated,jon too much make up.the seated at a table with a guest would seem more comfortable.please continue ,we so need intelligent media coverage

  • Marilyn DeLuera

    Dear PBS – What has happened to you? I could hear this kind of reporting on CNN or NBC. Every Friday night, I used to hurry home so I could skid in the door and watch Bill Moyers in his role of a modern day Jeremiah. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. There is definitely no need to hurry home, now.

    Re: BP and the oil spill – what DID happen in the Timur Sea? What oil company was involved? What was the cause? What was the ecological consequences? What will be the consequences for all of us, not just Louisiana, if this spill goes on?

    Re: the gun story – Sure, you picked some reasonable looking white guy whose 12-year old daughter packs a pink gun. What great family togetherness! I am a social worker working in the community mental health sector, and the thought of more guns in the hands of more people is truly horrendous! Need To Know’s shallow report on these issues make me wonder who paid you off! Or are you trying to attract a wider, more dummed down audience?

    Will you PLEASE find someone who will bring us the people and stories that Moyers and Branccachio bought us? That is the information that we really need to know.

    M DeLuera

  • Jerry McCann

    My Opinion:
    You are not starting out very well by asking that lying X president Clinton about anything.
    Same on you for subjecting the public to that idiot.

    Jerry mcCann

  • Charles Swanson

    I really looked forward to seeing the NTK premier, and the first show, in some senses, was very good. I really enjoyed former President Clinton and his views and the segment on oil.

    But, for all that, the MOST BIASED and full of innuendo story on guns. In fact, when you interviewed the GUN BIGOT from NYC, I muted the conversation. And, then YOU HAD NOBODY to provide a counter to the GUN BIGOT from NYC. That LACK of PERSPECTIVE was disastrous, and you lost me.

    BTW I am a WASP, a registered Independent and a PROUD voter and financial supporter of OUR current President (I voted against 43 twice), and I belong to the NRA (and many of their “positions” are anathema to me), but your bias was front and center and it ruined your initial show.

    I will watch a few more shows, but if you continue in the vein I see now, I will go somewhere else.


  • Linda Zimmer

    Dumbing down. Is that the direction for PBS? It sure was evident on the first edition of ‘Need to Know.’ There was no depth, reason, or intelligent reflection. All I heard were sound bites of verbiage. This inept program is a discredit to PBS and its viewers. Bill Moyers must be shaking his head in disbelief. I am!


  • David

    Thanks for your response, Glenn. You are correct to point out that absolute safety can not be assured in any situation, and certainly not when faced by a criminal intent on doing one harm. Those who carry a gun for self-defense are under no illusion that carrying makes them 100% safe from criminals. The purpose of carrying a gun is to greatly improve one’s chance of defending oneself. A common quote here is “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” Would I like to see adult students and faculty who are responsible citizens carry at Virginia Tech and other universities? Absolutely. Hiding under the table and hoping for the best, as you suggest, did not stop the VT shooter or the Luby’s shooter. In both cases (and others) the shooter continued killing at will for several minutes before the police arrived. if I were in such a situation I would hope I had a gun (and, yes, like others who carry, I am well trained with it) and I would certainly attempt to use it. You worry about the safety of those present who aren’t carrying; excuse me, but a madman is mowing them down. Your chances are much better if someone with a gun tries to stop him. Please Google the story at Luby’s. One female customer had a gun – which was stored in her car in the parking lot because it was illegal to bring it into the restaurant at that time (of course, the criminal doesn’t care about “gun free zones”). She was having lunch with her parents and they both were killed. She survived to change the law – to reinstate the 2nd amendment right to self-defense that the state of Texas had no legal authority in the first place to take away. You worry about the maturity of college students who might carry. They have been doing so for several years in Utah with zero incidents. It’s past time for the other states to restore our 2nd amendment rights.

    Mass murder attacks are rare, as you suggest, but there have been many over the years, including several at college campuses. Your risk is low most of the time, but if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time your risk is extremely high. Carrying is not only for confronting rare mass murderers, of course. Research has shown that guns are used approximately two million times per year in the US to stop a crime, and that in the vast majority of cases no shots are fired by either the criminal or the citizen. Rather, the citizen displayed a gun and the criminal left. For first person accounts, check out the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine, which recounts several each month.

  • Chris B.

    Dear PBS,

    Now that Bill Moyers Journal has been replaced with Need to Know. Hmm, I think PBS must now stand for Pathetic Boring Schlock, don’t you think?

    I have never been as disappointed in a PBS program as Need to Know. Dumbing down PBS to the level of that network whose name begins with “F”, gets my grade of the same letter.

    Please never air this program again, you are insulting your viewers. If you have any future shows already “in the can”, please just $h!+-can them now.

    Next week please show a re-run of Nova or begin a re-run of the Poldark series or some other example of your programming that we viewers have come to love and appreciate.

    NOTE to PBS programming executives: your viewers, may they wear blue collars or white, watch PBS to INCREASE their intellect and broaden their understanding of the things and ideas in the world and beyond. We do not need any more pre-prepared news releases or propaganda bits that you just add a tag line to.

    I don’t know if you are listening to those know-nothing oafs who say that PBS is only for the Liberal Elite (whoever they are). I presume they must mean those members of the population that are still able to separate themselves from the drone-like life that most people now have to endure daily, and are still able to think independently and for themselves. You will have to do a much better job to replace Bill Moyers Journal with its erudite and thought provoking discussions.

    No more talking heads news magazine format programs…please!

  • Kate McDonald

    I don’t need to know anything that Bill Clinton wants to tell. Just because the Obama administration was foolish enough to bring back both Clintons in the Washington loop, doesn’t mean that I need to know what they think. The only good thing about Bush was not having to see both Clintons. Poor choice putting on Bill Clinton. Sesame Street would be more enjoyable!

  • Nancy

    Tremendously disappointing in both format and content. Not at all consistent with the quality of programming viewers of public television support. What’s next, Regis and Kathy Lee?

  • Rich

    I left a comment, but never saw it posted. I’m assuming that your editorial staff saw my email address and assumed it was invalid. It is indeed valid. Please post my comment, or send me an email telling me why you wont. Thanks

  • John Adams

    Bill Moyer’s Journal made me happy to be alive. “Need To Know” made me disgusted and feeling like my intelligence had just been insulted !? Gun Rights and the 2nd Amendment and the ongoing debate about Concealed Carry / Open Carry… this important debate was certainly not served one way or the other by this piece of fluff pseudo-journalism. And why, I cannot imagine, would they interview Michael Bloomberg about his opinion on the subject?? That is like asking Felipe Calderon what his opinion is about illegal immigration !!?? They might as well have interviewed Bill Clinton on his opinions about “morals, ethics, marriage fidelity”?? Need To Know is an absolute failure; it is a total waste. Im usually not so critical, but I rely on PBS for decent journalism, for fair and balanced investigations, for professionalism. I mourne the passing of “Bill Moyers Journal”… and I just cant help but voice my disapointment with this so-called replacement !?

  • Chris

    I don’t understand this undying allegiance to Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio. Let it go old-timers. Yes, they were great broadcasters and fine journalists, but they were also marginal. Maybe I’m just speaking from the perspective of a 23-year-old PBS viewer, but both programs became staid after a while. Why were Moyers’ lengthy essays on health care or the middle east, for example, any more insightful than you what you read in the typical lefty newsmagazine? And it’s not like he did much original reporting of his own — he just found interesting people to interview from time to time. Need to Know will, too. And at least it will do it with a fresh and modern perspective on events. Moyers and Brancaccio were great, but it’s time for a new generation of public television viewers, and Need to Know is a program for them.

  • Chris

    And just to add one more thought — John Adams, you must have a pretty sad life if you relied entirely on Bill Moyers for meaning. And to declare something an abject failure after ONE episode is being hysterical. You are no better than the extremists on either side of the health care debate. Relax. Seriously. Need to Know JUST STARTED. And from what I’ve read, the staff of reporters and producers there is FROM Now and Moyers. Shows how much you know. You like Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio because they were from your generation — they were comforting to you. You identified with them. It had nothing to do with the content on their shows. Because the content wasn’t all that much better than what you would get in The Nation or New Republic or something. So please, spare us the histrionics. Need to Know is a show for my generation, and I intend to watch it for years to come.

  • Olivia Harrington

    My father and I would watch Bill Moyers and Now every Friday evening and the programs always provided a platform for thought and discussion. We watched the Need To Know program with an open mind and decided that we would not discuss until the next morning. You know, give some air. Anyway we kept thinking as other folks have said that it was just regurgitating the same news from the week. We also noted that Alison and Jon just did not seem to fit. I expected Alison to be doing cutting edge reporting to attract a younger audience….we understand that. However, the dynamic between the two hosts kept getting in the way of their attempt to get the story out. We will continue watching and hope for the kind of excellence we have come to expect from PBS.

  • Rbtoothacher

    I really tried to keep an open mind and admit freely my bias toward the style of journalism displayed by “The Journal” and “Now.” But, this show was lacking in so many ways; namely requiring me to think!

    PBS, what are you doing????

  • Armin

    Need to know?

    I’ll say…

    They “Need to know” how to put out an intelligent, unbiased, and entertaining program.

    The market is already flooded with the kind of drivel this program contained, hence, it will not get my support as a viewer.

  • Darby

    Please create a podcast link!!!!!!!!

  • Donna Siegmund

    Why? I appreciated Ms Stewart when she was on ABC overnight news. I never paid much attention to the tardy articles in Newsweek. Why didn’t you give the entire time slot to the team who was on NOW rather than give us rehashing of network news, including FOX with the views of the open carry gun advocate presented with no opposing opinions or any statistical data. What was it you thought I didn’t already know?

  • Barb B

    Oh, dear…another reason not to bother turning on the television. Bill Clinton, Michael Bloomberg and the NY Times…I’m learning to skip the News Hour many nights since it has deteriorated. Now this! An hour of Hinojosa and Brancaccio would have been a logical choice, if only on an interim basis. This is the same tripe dished up by the national networks, totally devoid of integrity or honest conversation about genuine issues. You had plenty of time to deal with the date of Mr. Moyers departure. It has obviously cost a lot of (membership) dough to produce this new show. What were you thinking?!?!?

  • ksjayhawk

    “Need To Know” (just so much and no more)

    Was that unintentional play on the phrase and display of the level of IQ you think your viewers have or was it intentional?

  • Lynn McKechnie

    This program was horrible! No depth, no honest investigation, nothing worth watching. I can only echo the comments written before me on how poorly this show demonstrated any journalistic integrity. There are too many serious issues in the world today that need thoughtful and intense study and the results brought before us so that we can be an informed electorate. I do not have the time to waste on another shallow, one dimensional series of news clips. It seems that the show should be named “What We Think the Public Should Know and No More.”

  • JNagarya

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with the negative evaluations: What happened to journalists INFORMING THEMSELVES of the facts BEFORE they attempt to “innform” their readers and viewers. An example is the false equivalency given to pro- and anti-gun control law, without bothering to research the claims of the NRA, et al., claims made about the law. It isn’t difficult to find and read the debates of those who WROTE the Second Amendment — the first Congress — to determine what THEY intended by it, as contrasted with the — to be polite — gun industy/lobby ahistorical and anti-Constitutional faictions. This is based solely upon primary legal authority — without the avoidances perpetuated, alas, even by PBS’s “journalists” (Bill Moyers knew better):

    Law for Gun-Nuts: The Law of the Second Amendment

    The bottom line is that gun-nuts, when confronted with the actual legal history and law, essentially insist that the way to determine John Doe’s view of a matter is to ask everyone BUT John Doe. Reason and law do not work that way; but irresponsibility and intellectual dishonesty do.

    In priors I listed those materials which are LEGAL AUTHORITY. All else, including “The Federalist”, private opinions in letters and diaries, regardless how famous the authors of them, are

    NOT LAW and have NO legal weight.

    That is what John Adams meant when he said: “A system of laws, and not of men.” The Constitution stipulates (1) that the laws shall be made by CONGRESS; and (2) that the Constitution, which establishes the Federal gov’t, is SUPREME over the states.

    As for “the right to bear arms,” this is the LEGAL history on that issue, which was originally in response to a person making this FALSE assertion:

    “All of the Bill of Rights refer to individual rights. Raving lunatics should read the Federalist Papers for further insight.”

    Concerning the “Federalist Papers”: the CORRECT title of the book is “The Federalist”. As well, “The Federalist,” having been written by private citizens hidden behind pseudonyms, and not having been enacted by a legislature, is both NOT LAW and IRRELEVANT for several reasons.

    First, they were written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay — only one of whom would later be a member of the first Congress, which WROTE the Bill of Rights, under the newly-ratified Constitution.

    Second, the authors ADMITTED that their purpose was to SELL the CONSTITUTION — which means they were not OBJECTIVE: they were BIASED in FAVOR of ratification.

    Third, and most relevant in this context, as the Constitution was framed, and then ratified, WITHOUT a Bill of Rights, the only mentions of “Bill of Rights” in “The Federalist” are REJECTIONS of the “NEED” for one; see Federalist No. 84, in which is said, as example:

    “I . . . affirm that bills of rights . . . are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. . . .” “The Federalist” (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by Jacob E. Cooke, at 579.

    Fourth, “The Federalist” was written by THREE delegates to the Constitutional Convention — out of over FIFTY delegates who agreed on very little. THREE is an INCONSEQUENTIAL MINORITY of that OVER FIFTY. In addition, those three were balanced by THREE delegates on the OPPOSITE end of the political spectrum who OPPOSED ratification of the Constitution, and refused to sign it, because it DIDN’T have a Bill of Rights. One of those was Elbridge Gerry, about whom more below.

    Fifth, with ratification of the Constitution completed, Federalist promotion of that outcome ENDED.

    It was during the ratification process that several states that ratified the Constitution, beginning with the sixth, Massachusetts-Bay, included PROPOSED amendments with their Notices of Ratification.

    This is the chronology:

    1. Completion of ratification of the Constitution occurred on June 21, 1788.

    2. SUBSEQUENTLY, Congress was established/organized under the newly-ratified Constitution.

    3. Congress first “achieved a quorum on 6 April [1789]“. “Creating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress” (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), Ed. by Helen E. Veit, et al., at xiv. This volume is the DEBATES — the LEGISLATIVE HISTORY — of those who WROTE the Bill of Rights.

    4. Madison, the ONLY author of “The Federalist” to be a member of that Congress, codified the several states’ PROPOSED amendments into a RESOLUTION which he submitted to Congress for DEBATE on May 4, 1789. Id., at 1.

    5. On May 25, 1789, Madison himself moved to POSTPONE consideration of the proposed amendments until June 8, 1789, which was agreed to by the Congress. Id., at 5.

    6. Debate of the proposed amendments did not begin until August 13, 1789. Id., at 7. That’s how “worried” the Founders/Framers in Congress were about there NOT being a Bill of Rights: they were in no hurry. More pressing were establishing the Executive and Judicial branches of the gov’t, a responsibility that fell to the Congress.

    7. The DEBATES of Madison’s resolution in Congress were OBVIOUSLY conducted by those who WROTE the Bill of Rights: the members of that first Congress.

    8. Unlike “The Federalist” — irrelevant to begin with — the DEBATES of those who WROTE the Bill of Rights are LEGAL AUTHORITY; it is to THOSE we refer when we want to know the intent of those who WROTE the Bill of Rights.

    9. The debate which eventuated in the Second Amendment began with and was EXCLUSIVELY concerned with whether to establish a standing army — the Founders/Framers considered such a “bane of liberty”; a THREAT to the gov’ts they had established — or to instead rely on the alternative: MILITIA. Elbridge Gerry summarized the issue during the debates of that which became the Second Amendment with this statement:

    “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” Id., at 182.

    He makes no mention of “individual” because a MILITIA is OBVIOUSLY no more an individual than is an army. As well, and as obvious, PEOPLE is PLURAL, as in, WE THE PEOPLE. It is NOT “We the individual,” or, “I the people”.

    10. That which became the Second Amendment was drawn from MILITIA clauses in the state constitutions/bills of rights of Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. “The Bill of Rights and the States: The Colonial and Revolutionary Origins of American Liberties” (Madison, WI: Madison House, 1992), Edited by Patrick T. Conley and John P. Kaminski, at xviii.

    11. Exactly as with the DEBATES of that which became the Second Amendment, those four MILITIA clauses include the phrase “the right of the people [PLURAL] to keep and bear arms [as MILITIA]“; and that is directly associated with the phrase concerning standing armies being the “bane of liberty”*.

    *The US Constitution incorporates FOUR references to MILITIA. US Con. Art. II., s. 2, c. 1 reads:

    “The President shall be Commander in Chief . . . of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

    And when the militia is not in service to the United States, the commander in chief of it is the states’ governor, as is stipulated in each of the several states’ constitutions.

    The second, US Con. Art. I., s. 8., c. 15, reads in relevant part:

    “Congress shall have the Power To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, [and] SUPPRESS INSURRECTIONS.”

    Obvious conclusion: Neither the President nor a state’s governor is going to call out the militia to “defend against” himself.

    These, in full, are the four state constitution/bills of rights MILITIA clauses from which was drawn the Second Amendment:

    “Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, Article XVII. The people [PLURAL] have a right to keep and bear arms [as MILITIA] for the COMMON DEFENCE. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the Legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the Civil authority [GOV'T], and be governed by it.”

    “North Carolina Declaration of Rights, Article XVII. That the people [PLURAL] have a right to bear arms [as MILITIA], for the defence OF THE STATE [GOV'T]; and as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power [GOV'T].”

    “Pennsylvania Declaration of Rights, Article XIII. That the people [PLURAL] have a right to bear arms [as MILITIA] for the defense of themselves _AND_ THE STATE [GOV'T]; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power [GOV'T].”

    “Vermont Declaration of Rights, Chapter I., Article XV. That the people [PLURAL] have a right to bear arms [as MILITIA] for the defence of themselves _AND_ THE STATE [GOV'T]; and, as standing armies, in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power [GOV'T].”

    12. The first draft of that which became the Second Amendment reads as follows, in full, the final clause being the ONLY “individual right” debated concerning that which became the Second Amendment by those who WROTE the Second Amendment:

    “The right of the people [PLURAL] to keep and bear arms [as MILITIA] shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia [NOT "individual"] being the best security of a free country [NOT "individual"]: but no person [INDIVIDUAL] religiously scrupulous of [AGAINST] bearing arms, shall be compelled [INVOLUNTARY] to render military service [in the MILITIA] in person.” “Creating,” at 30.

    And the phrase “well regulated militia” is addressed it the third reference to Militia in the US Constitution, US Con. Art. I., s. 8, c. 16, reads in full:

    “Congress shall have the Power To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers [this done by the states' governor and legislature] and the Authority of training the Militia ACCORDING TO THE DISCIPLINE PRESCRIBED BY CONGRESS.”

    As the Constitution stipulates that Congress shall make the laws, “to regulate” means by means of LAW.

    OBVIOUSLY the final clause of that which became the Second Amendment — “: but no person [INDIVIDUAL] religiously scrupulous of [AGAINST bearing arms, shall be compelled [INVOLUNTARY] to render military service [in the MILITIA] in person.” — was VOTED DOWN by those who WROTE the Amendment. AS OBVIOUSLY, as it is the ONLY “individual right” debated concerning that which became the Second Amendment, that it was VOTED DOWN means that the Second Amendment has NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH “INDIVIDUAL” ANYTHING.

    Asserting NON-law changes NONE of those facts, BEGINNING with the fact that the Congressional debates of those who WROTE the Second Amendment are _THE_ LEGAL AUTHORITY we consult to determine what those who WROTE the Second Amendment MEANT with the Second Amendment. And as unequivocally shown, it is SOLELY concerned with WELL REGULATED MILITIA, and their being UNDER the law. As is also obvious: as the Founders/Framers were opposed to standing armies because THREAT to the gov’ts they established, they DID NOT intend that
    the militia THREATEN the gov’ts they established.

    13. The Bill of Rights, consisting of twelve proposed amendments, was submitted to the states’ legislatures for consideration on September 25, 1789. The first two of the twelve were rejected.

    14. Ratification of the Bill of Rights was completed on December 15, 1791.

    15. The fourth reference to Militia in the US Constitution reads in full:

    “A Well regulated [by CONGRESS] Militia [NOT "individual"], being necessary to the security of a free State [GOV'T -- NOT "individual"], the right of the people [PLURAL] to keep and bear Arms [as that WELL REGULATED MILITIA], shall not be infringed.”

    To underscore those facts: SUBSEQUENTLY, in 1792, Congress enacted the first “Militia Acts” by means of which to regulate the militia by implementing the provisions in the Constitution — including the Second Amendment. These are the captions of the first several of those illustrating the purposes of the militia, and the evolution of the law:

    May 2, 1792: Chap. XXVIII.–An Act to provide for calling fourth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, SUPPRESS INSURRECTIONS and repel invasions.

    May 8, 1792: Chap. XXXIII.–An Act more effectually to provide for the National Defence by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States.

    Especially notable:

    July 6, 1798: Chap. LXV.–An Act providing arms for the Militia throughout the United States.

    March 2, 1803: Chap. XV.–An Act in addition to an Act entitled, “An Act more effectually to provide for the National Defence, by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States.”

    March 3, 1803: Chap. XX.–An Act more effectually to provide for the organizing of the Militia of the District of Columbia.

    April 10, 1806: Chap. XX.–An Act establishing rules and articles for the government of the armies of the United States.

    April 18, 1814: Chap. LXXXII.–An Act in addition to an Act entitled, “An Act for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, SUPPRESS INSURRECTIONS, and to repeal the act now in force for those purposes.”

    April 20, 1816: Chap. LXIV.–An Act concerning field officers of the Militia.

    May 12, 1820: Chap. XCVII.–An Act to establish an uniform mode of discipline and field exercise for the Militia of the United States.

    March 2, 1821: Chap. XIII, sec. 11.–An Act to reduce and fix the military peace establishment of the United States.

    One can either accept those clear and unequivocal facts and that they substantiate — the Second Amendment has nothing whatever to do with “individual” ANYTHING, let alone “defending against” Constitution and rule of law — or continue to talk fake-patriot anti-Constitutional ragtime.

    Do us a favor, “Need to Know”: do your homework BEFORE you present your findings to the public — so you don’t again present private special-interest lies as the equal in validity of truth.

    Why did you not challenge the gun-nut use of statistics while they simultaneously disparage the use of statistics? Why did you not note that the more motor vehicles there are, the more motor vehicle accidants there are? Because you were busy quoting the unsubstantiated propaganda about “countless” alleged incidents of private citizens with guns saving the day?

    Why, in short, did you not confront the irrational nonsense on which gun-nuts rely to bamboozle those who fail or refuse to inform themselves?

  • JNagarya


    “. . . . It’s past time for the other states to restore our 2nd amendment rights. . . .”

    Shouldn’t you KNOW the INTENT of those who WROTE the Second Amendment BEFORE you decide to adopt the false propaganda pumped out by the gun industry through such private non-profit special-interest fronts as the NRA?

    Inform yourself: the debates of those who WROTE the Second Amendment are in print and readily available: buy and READ them:

    “Crating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress” (Baltimore, MD: Tje Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), Edited by Helen E. Veit, et al. Here’s a sample — the first draft of that which would become the Second Amendment. See if you can pick out the “individual right” that was debated concerning same:

    “The right of the people [PLURAL -- it is not, "We the individual," or, "I the people"] to keep and bear arms [in the MILITIA] shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia [NOT "individual"] being the best security of a free country [NOT "individual"]: but no person [INDIVIDUAL] religiously scrupulous of [AGAINST] bearing arms [in the Militia] shall be compelled [INVOLUNTARY, as in DRAFT] to render military service [in the Militia] in person.” “Creating,” at 30.

    Here’s a clue as to the quality of “thinking” for which you are falling: the NRA and its cult constantly cite statistices in support of their claims; and simultaneously disparage and reject the use of statistics when they go against and refute their claims. Even without statistics it stands to reason that the more guns there are, the more “accidents” involving guns will occur.

    As concerns the spurious claims being made about what would have happened if VA Tech. students and faculty had been armed: the problem was weakness in the existing VA law which allowed a mentally ill person to get guns LEGALLY. But there’s the solution, eh? — the way to extinguish a fire is to pour gasoline onto it. Then the claim can be made that if we only had more gasoline fires, there’d be fewer gasoline fires.

    And in the event you haven’t heard: the NRA is working to repeal laws which PROHIBIT those who are mentally ill owning guns. We’ve been there before — which is why it came to be that the mentally ill were prohibited owning guns.

    But that should improve the situation — for those who can’t think, or can’t think straight.

    By contrast: No SANE society leaves dangerous substances and objects lying around unregulated. Why? Because PUBLIC SAFETY trumps “individual right”; that’s why it was illegal, instead of legal, for McVeigh to bomb the Murrah Federal Building in protest against the assault weapons ban.

  • David

    I’ve never blogged before this stream on Need to Know’s gun segment, because the few blogs I’ve ever looked at were filled with ranting and name calling. I assumed the blogs for a PBS show would be more intelligently handled. Unfortunately, the anti-gun rights bloggers say they want to “slap me silly,” or call me a “gun-nut” or use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to insure their view of my inferior intellect isn’t missed. As I often encounter at the university where I teach, liberals have a tendency to assume that those who disagree with them are stupid. The much prized “open-mindness” of the liberal thinkers is a rare find. I had just hoped it might be different here.

    Please respond with all the ranting you would like. I won’t be checking this blog again.

  • sonya z

    ditto, ditto, ditto….to all the negative comments aout your new show. there was not one new thing that i learned on need to know…except, take that back, that i don’t need to tune in to it to learn anything. i always got something new out of the discussions on bill moyers and out of now. this is such a disappointment given the shrinking news environment in america. pls do something to redeem yourselves! and yes, one big softball interview with the softball politician, bill clinton, who helped bring america to its knees with nafta and other so called moves to the middle. moves to his opportunity with corporations is about what his eight years amounted to!

  • Steve

    One interviewee in the gun story, disparaging government, claimed that Social Security is bankrupt. That is false, and should have been contested and corrected. Social Security has a huge surplus, accumulated over many years, since Reagan increased the SS tax. Jon Stewart challenges his guests’ false claims. Why don’t real journalists do the same?

  • noelle

    I recommend those dissatisfied watch Democracy Now! instead.
    Why didn’t Moyers’ sole corporate sponsor pony up the money to support Now instead?

  • David

    I found Need to Know refreshing. The stories covered interesting and relevant topics. The coverage was intelligent, informative and to the point, It’s clear the producers want us to be informed about what is going on in these times of dramatic change. I was particularly impressed with Bill Clinton’s assessment of the current political, economic and social situation.

    I miss Bill Moyers as much as anyone. He cannot be replaced and it is unreasonable to expect Need to Know to replicate him.

  • Glenn Kent

    Again, only because I’ve been directly addressed; one last attempt to clarify, then I will stop. (The comment button at this webpage end is likely intended to allow communication to PBS about programming and program content. I could be wrong, but I quit.)

    Apparently my original comment got people’s attention as designed. But equally obvious is the lack of recognition of a writing style called a metaphor even though it was greatly prefaced with hints about what writing style was coming. My failure and apology; it means the point was lost. Only misguided emotional response was achieved.

    Second Amendment: Read it and the Founding Fathers concerns; not the NRA viewpoint. The discourse is about Militia which was intended to have a specific purpose.

    It appears there is some difficulty in leaving behind the use of extremely rare situations and the use of biased resources as evidences to support a point of view. Mass murder aberrations and the purposefully biased website and publications of the NRA are unlikely to sway rational people seeking understanding.

    Three likely neutral, historical and uncontested descriptions of our human condition may help:
    We incarcerate more convicted criminals than any other society worldwide (not political incarcerations). Of that population only a relatively small percent are for violent crimes against the general public. Consider your realistic odds of being involved. We can “what if” forever. It does not change the realistic odds. Wear a life preserver every time flood warnings are issued. This at least does not affect other’s potential risks.

    There is annual data for the “responsible citizens” you would have carrying guns for protection. These people are deemed by societal norms to be mature enough by virtue of age; to have demonstrated acceptable proficiency in the use of equipment by actual testing and then certified by licensing. These people are the American automotive driving public. Yet they kill tens of thousands of Americans annually by consent that Americans have a right. This is the use of a non-weapon in an environment of nonaggression. It indicates increased causal risk if this population is always in a universally weaponized environment. The counterpoint is likely; we’re not talking about an everyday use of guns, just the potential. That’s a tough sell regarding a mindset concerned about specifically threatening situations. Just as with driving; responsible people can present a wide variety of responses to unplanned, unexpected situation due to small differences such as sleep time, the day’s social interactions or commitments, last exercise, upset stomach etc.

    Consider a highly structured, well trained, highly disciplined, tightly controlled organization such as the US Military. Place them in a non combat, non lethal, realistically extremely low threat situation as a buffer (fence) opposite American students. Yet members of this trained unthreatened organization lost perspective, misinterpreted their situation and opened fire on unarmed students expressing their right to protest.

    Ask yourself one question and attempt to extend the answer’s content to more difficult situations. What would have been the most likely realistic outcome if only one change was made to the now historical event at Kent State University in Ohio (4 students dead)? Suppose the entire student body had instead been armed?

  • TC

    ^ “Suppose the entire student body had instead been armed?”

    More casualties resulting from “friendly fire” perhaps?

  • mij

    I am looking for the in-depth discussions and reporting we had with Bill Moyers Journal and NOW. At the end of one Need To Know segment the interviewer responded to a comment with “Hmm.” I would not find that on either of the two replaced programs. I will watch NTK a few more times but at present this program has given me nothing to look forward to. I can find what it offers on other networks. Too many topics and little insight. You should have expanded NOW to an hour with Brancaccio and Hinojosa.

  • Jonathon Bailey

    What a huge disappointment. THIS is what PBS is trying to replace Bill Moyers’ thoughtful, intelligent show with? I watched the first show and was bored out of my mind. It seemed so dumbed down. Seems to me like PBS is caving to the right-wing lunatics that criticized Bill’s show – it’s just pathetic. If this is the kind of programming we can expect from PBS I can’t say I’ll be continuing my donations to the network.

  • Jonathon Bailey

    There is less and less access to investigative journalism these days. Bill Moyers retiring was a huge loss to the American public, although you can’t blame him – he’s done great work throughout his life for us. Democracy Now! is one of the few programs left – I suggest people who miss Bill’s show take a look if you don’t watch this program already. PBS should get this program on its network.

  • Glenn Showalter

    Thank you for the story on education and texts. When the liberal media is publishing a article that says the field of education has gone from liberal to the ultra liberal obviously we have a serious problem across America. Personally i’ve known about it since the 1980′s. And look at what has happened to the students since that time with the liberal charge and spend. GS

  • TD Bloom

    This may be petty, but I really object to the show’s title: I hate it when news people tell me what “I” NEED to know. I KNOW What I need to know. So that’s the first thing. Nor did I appreciate the awful “music” that they have chosen — I guess to hook young viewers (that’s a laugh).

    I really miss NOW. Why was it taken off the air? Does anyone know the truth? I have written PBS and received NO reply to my inquiry. Is PBS afraid of losing sponsors? What gives? Along with BMJ and Frontlne, it was the best investigative reporting on TV.

    I didn’t enjoy NTK enough to keep watching it.

  • jason

    I have watched every show. The stories need to go deeper. The interviewers need to know more about their subjects. This is so far beneath the standard that bill moyers set, that I dont need to watch this anymore……..I can get everything from elsewhere (democracy now etc)

    Bill was unique in his talent, I just wish he had properly groomed a successor.

    I am so dissapointed I am unable to express the extent. Bill will be sorely missed.

    Now why did “NOW” go off the air? I can understand bill needing the rest being that he is getting “older” but why would PBS take now off the air? Oh well we still have frontline…….for now.

  • jason

    Moyers journal was a place you got news and insight that was not available anywhere else.

    what the hell is this?

  • jason

    democracynow dot org for topics that will genuinely move you and in depth investigation that goes beyond the superficial….

    I am in my 20s by the way…….so Bill wasnt ” a comforting relic from my generation” NO! he is an exceptional journalist who truly cares about truth justice and the human condition.

  • irene heath

    What on earth happened to NOW and David Broncoccio? He was marvelous and I truly thought he was being groomed to replace Bill Moyers when he retired. I loved Bill Moyers and could understand his retiring but I cannot comprehend why David Broncoccio isn’t with us anymore.
    I do like NEED TO KNOW but I surely would like to see David Broncoccio take Bill Moyers place as a person to do interviews on an in depth level with people of interest and importance.
    Irene Heath

  • David

    You’re being to hard on these kids, they don’t know yet, they think you write the title first and then the story. They’ll get it, but I don’t think it will happen while using this format, maybe if either of them have a show in ten years, It might even be something to watch. You see the culture is using opinion pieces and calling it news. You know people really do not care about other people’s opinions they would really just like the news.