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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.



  • Brenda

    I love the thought about a segment on the pill. However Erica Jong is not the choice I would have made. Dr. Ruth yes.

  • Joy Johnson

    CCSVI: The program Need to Know could play a vital role by telling citizens some things that their very own doctors choose to ignore; things that might improve the quality of their lives, increase their income, minimize their medical expenses, and benefit families all over North America. Need to Know would be providing an enormous service to hundreds of thousands of men, women and teens who deserve to know about a recent, simple discovery in medicine that could impact their lives if only the medical establishment would allow it. The medical establishment is very reluctant to discuss or explore this safe and accessible treatment, and is hiding behind thick black curtains of denial. Medical establishments, drug companies and specialty physican-providers have nothing to gain and much to lose by sharing this information, so you will not hear it from them. Which is why Canadians and Europeans are screaming out to each other with the facts, traveling across continents to seek hands-on expertise, and using Canadian TV, social networking sites, and many small revolutions across America to get their story out. It seems appropriate for Need to Know, now.
    Need to Know can and should serve the PUBLIC who support them (“people like me!”) by researching and producing a detailed documentary about CCSVI at its first opportunity. This comment (submitted to the Need to Know site at will be copied to Facebook pages of my profile and CCSVI groups in Georgia and Canada.
    Thanks very much.
    Joy Johnson
    Tucker, GA

  • Molly Darden

    Bravo, Joy! I hope PBS will explore this potential remedy .

  • Russ

    Good! Looking forward to this. Hit hard on the oil spill, for instance, does anyone know much about the chemicals that they are spraying into the oil leak? I heard it was very, very toxic. We will not know the damage until BP is long gone. And BP, just waiting for the leak to be tapped and the cameras to go somewhere else, will harden their position just like Exxon and avoid any more regulations. Business as usual will come back soon and we the residents of the Gulf Coast, just like the fishermen in Alaska, will be left holding the bag. This story has been written before. We will soon have Red Snapper, Blue Snapper, Green Snapper and two headed Snapper. All for the same low price!

  • Gordon Rogoff

    Mourning for Bill Moyers won’t get us anywhere, but foisting still another hodge-podge magazine version of the “news,” replete with gun-toters, repeat performances from Clinton and Bloomberg (interchangeable corporate establishment nutcases), is truly an insult, mashing our noses in the Moyers-loss on behalf of the same-old same-old.

    There’s a phrase covering such a decision, a boring one, true, but unavoidable: dumbing down. Do we really need a picture-version of the NYTimes Magazine or Newsweek for that matter? Even the Washington Post doesn’t need Newsweek anymore. Moyers closed with Jim Hightower and Barry Lopez, all three offering thought, the two guests models of the probing analysis that will be missing from now on. A pity PBS didn’t take the hint.

  • Nancy Stapleford

    This was sent to teachers, and to my knowledge is being marketed as a way to interest teens in informed discussions about the news. As engaging and enlightening as the Moyers model is, it is not the model that can actively inform or engage a 17 year old. I am excited to explore this as a resource for students.

  • Mary Peterson

    As a teacher, I am sorry Wisconsin decided not to air this program. I would have watched.

  • marilyn bendiksen

    Why isn’t Need to Know being aired? I don’t need Nova reruns, thank you.

  • abw

    love this whole concept…in fact my teenage daughter was also intrigued that she ended up watching the whole program

  • Ned

    You posted the video of “Need to Know,” but not the Borowitz commentary at the end. In the future, please post it!

  • bob cacciola

    Another great (new) and informative program from PBS – Excellent. But the “phone book ” segment- OUCH it must go. Pure non sense. Something more well suited for present day “20/20″ which I gave up on a long time ago.

  • dbbltlk

    We wish you well in the future.
    What we’d like you to explore sometime in the near future is how necessary is it, for any ‘news’; organization, to confirm whether any news it prints, airs, or e-distributes is, in fact, legititmate.
    Are there laws, for example that hold any ‘news’ media responsible for assuring authenticity, as far up/back to and beyond the ‘source’, no matter how highly placed.
    We’d like to know ;-) )

  • Mickie B

    I am so impressed with Jon and Alison on the premiere of NEED TO KNOW. What a great addition to PBS programming! I am a Canadian supporter (New Brunswick/Maine) of PBS, and will continue my financial contributions to help bring content such as this to the airways. Well done!

  • Erik Jensen

    As an avid hunter and gun owner who hates the NRA, I thought your interview of Bloomberg was inadequate. It was the simple case made by gun-control advocates: guns are a danger to society in a lot of sitautions, which has a lot of truth to it. But it didn’t go into the real reason why the NRA is successful in blocking gun control that should be there. Gun control groups are led by people who don’t own guns and are often irrationally afraid of them, and are technically illerate about them: “guns are bad”. The NRA leadership uses this fact to scare mainstream gun owners into their camp. The NRA leadership and a chunk of its members have the opposite view: “guns are good”. Joe hunter (or even recreational shooters) have a pragmatic view: guns are tools: very good in some situations, very bad in others. During the woods during deer season here in Minnesota, hearing gunfire is the very expression of the community and joy of the hunt. Gunfire in an urban area, where I live, is pretty much a terrifying thing.

    The story also failed to explain the economic power the NRA leadership has to exaggerate its influence within the hunting community: the firearms industry’s ad revenue to outdoor publications, which makes outdoor journalists terrified of supporting any gun control, because they will be fired and blackballed (this happened in the case of famous hunter Jim Zumbo). Additionally, the firearms industry’s foundation that gives grants to volunteer-run gun clubs, the Shooting Sports foundation. The clubs (I am member of one) feel obligated to push or even require NRA membership. All of this allows them to project more support than they really have, and bully people into their camp. The firearms industry isn’t going to fund a group of pragmatic gun owners who want support for that tradtional pragmatic firearms culture but support some gun control to protect society.

    The NRA leadership has done a great deal of damage to society and even to hunting itself with its extreme positions. As someone who is very active in hunting and hunting advocacy, I consider them overall to be anti-hunting because of their lack of support for pro-conservation politicians, usually Democrats. Pragmatic gun owners and the broader public need to be educated on the techniques of this menace so we can weaken their influence.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    What a bunch of lightweights, bring back Bill Moyers. Come on, you two are sitting there in awe of the politicians you are interviewing. Sound effects? Why are you using sound effects? Do you think PBS viewers need a constant stream of audio to keep us glued to the screen. Can you please hide your breathless awe for politicians as well as the other ‘news’ services? PBS and NPR were my last bastion of news that tried to present at least a pretense of impartiality. Congrats PBS you finally, after 20 years, gave into the same pressures the networks gave into years ago of pandering to human emotions in exchange for more viewers. If your reporters are going to swoon all over the guests, at least keep it intelligent. Your program aimed low on the first episode. Two thumbs down for “Need to know”. Ahhh America, you mistake paranoia for being alert, brute force for security, and propaganda for information. Give Gwin Ifill a full hour in the time slot.

  • Mike


    Who is “Gwin” Ifill?

    Think you meant Gwen Ifill.

  • Dr. Janis Swenson Taylor

    I agree with Gordon Rogoff. “Need to Know” does not come close to filling the shoes of Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio. For a decade I have looked forward each week to my Friday night with PBS. My daily Newshour, Tuesday Frontline, and Friday Washington Week kept me informed on current events, but the week’s highlights were “Now” and “Bill Moyer’s Journal. They challenged my mind. They brought issues to my attention that other newscasts had never mentioned. They informed our past, analyzed all perspectives of our present, and pointed out issues pending in our future that deserved our careful consideration. Bill’s interviews with authors added to my reading list for many years. Please bring back that type of thoughtful investigative reporting and analysis.

  • Sheila

    Just got your notification about your upcoming show on textbooks. Here’s an angle I hope you’ll cover: The college where I teach is one of many that is using the campus bookstore as a “cash cow” to take student money. The colleges make contracts with Barnes&Noble or Follett to run their campus bookstore, in return for $500,000 or so per year, plus a percent of profits. They allow the bookstore to raise textbook prices to recoup that money from the students. Many students don’t have the option of buying their books elsewhere, because their financial aid doesn’t arrive in time. The college feeds the bookstore data on expected aid so that they can give the students credit toward it, and the students pretty much locked into buying their books there, so that they can have their books at the beginning of the semester.

  • Glenn Showalter

    When a moderate liberal broadcast journalism group is going after the liberals you know we really are in trouble. Thank you for taking them to task though personally i’ve known all about it since the 1980′s and students have paid the charge and spend and waste attitude of liberal academe from tuition to the presidents salaries. (and bonus) GS

  • Gabriel Rivers