Jim Lehrer joined forces with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to anchor public television’s unprecedented, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S. Senate Watergate hearings.
The team earned an Emmy Award and initiated one of the most respected journalistic partnerships in television history.
In 1975, The Robert MacNeil Report, a weeknightly half-hour news program that provided in-depth coverage of a different single issue each evening, debuted locally on Thirteen/WNET in New York, with Jim Lehrer as Washington correspondent, reporting from WETA Washington, D.C. Just a few months later, the successful program was re-titled The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and was distributed nationally by PBS. For the next seven years, the program set a standard for broadcast journalism and garnered more than 30 major awards for the program and its co-anchors.
In 1983, the partners transformed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report into The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. The program became the nation’s first and only hour-long nightly broadcast of national news, proving there existed both a need and a substantial audience for serious, long-form journalism. Broadcasting simultaneously from New York and Washington, The NewsHour expressed the MacNeil/Lehrer signature style — low-key, evenhanded, inclusive of all perspectives — and inspired participation by thousands of the world’s pivotal newsmakers, as well as a growing roster of top-flight correspondents and analysts. The NewsHour received numerous Emmy and Peabody Awards, along with virtually every other significant award for quality television and outstanding journalism. With Robert MacNeil’s departure in 1995, the program debuted as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and made WETA its production home. Under Lehrer’s direction, The NewsHour extended its reach in 1996 by launching a website.
In December 2009, Lehrer transitioned the program from The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer to PBS NewsHour, adding a rotating anchor format and integrating the on-air and online news operations. The changes were designed to ensure that The NewsHour remained vital and accessible to citizens on all platforms. In 2010, the program was recognized with the prestigious Chairman’s Award at the 31st Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards for its “significant and distinguished contribution to the craft of broadcast journalism.” Lehrer ultimately left the anchor desk in 2011 to pursue other projects.
In 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors and managing editors of PBS NewsHour. Ifill and Woodruff’s appointment marked the first time a U.S. network broadcast had a female co-anchor team. Also in 2013, PBS NewsHour expanded to the weekend, with 30-minute newscasts produced by Thirteen/WNET in New York and anchored by weekday correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.
In 2014, the partners of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, including Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil, contributed their ownership of PBS NewsHour and other assets to NewsHour Productions LLC, a new wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of WETA. The award-winning program continues its commitment to serious journalism, on-air and online. The broadcast’s mission — to provide a substantive alternative combining civility, objectivity and thoughtful reporting and analysis — remains as critical today as when the broadcast began more than 35 years ago.
PBS NewsHour Facts
Schedule: PBS NewsHour is fed live by satellite from 6 to 7 p.m. (ET) each weeknight, with repeat feeds updated when news warrants, from 7 to 8 p.m. and 9 to 10 p.m. (ET). PBS, which distributes PBS NewsHour, recommends a 7 to 8 p.m. schedule; public television stations decide independently on PBS NewsHour’s time slot in their markets. Many stations repeat the program late at night or early in the morning.
Production: PBS NewsHour is a production of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with WNET in New York. PBS NewsHour originates from Washington, D.C. PBS NewsHour Weekend originates from New York, NY.
Broadcast Carriage: PBS NewsHour is broadcast by more than 300 PBS stations, reaching 98 percent of the nation’s television households, according to Nielsen.
History: PBS NewsHour grew out of journalists Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil’s unprecedented, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S. Senate Watergate hearings in 1973. The half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report from 1975-1983 garnered critical praise and numerous awards for in-depth coverage of a different single issue in each broadcast. The program was transformed into The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1983. It made history as the first hour-long broadcast of national nightly news and was recognized with Emmy and Peabody Awards, and other honors. In October 1995, the program became The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In December 2009, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer transitioned to PBS NewsHour. In September 2013, the program began its newest incarnation as PBS NewsHour with co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, the first female co-anchor team in U.S. network broadcast history.
Website: PBS NewsHour’s website has won high marks for original reporting, interactive forums and substantive news coverage on the Internet. The site in 2020 averaged more than 7.5 million unique visitors a month. In addition, PBS NewsHour website features Extra, an interactive current events site for students and teachers that includes more than 150 lesson plans for bringing current events into the classroom.
Additional Program Reach: PBS NewsHour is available online and via podcast. In many markets, public radio stations simultaneously broadcast the audio portion of PBS NewsHour on AM and FM radio on NPR affiliates. PBS NewsHour airs virtually coast to coast in Australia, Canada and Japan, and on Voice of America worldwide.
PBS NewsHour is close-captioned for the hearing-impaired.