During this extraordinary global pandemic, the PBS NewsHour is as committed as ever to bringing you fair, insightful news and analysis that you can trust. As this crisis has changed all of our lives, it has changed our newsroom too. I want to tell you about that and assure you that we are taking every precaution to keep our journalists, crew and staff as safe as possible while also fulfilling our mission of informing you, our public media audience.
Most of the steps we are taking are invisible to those who watch our broadcast or engage with our reporting online. Our entire digital team has been publishing content from home for over a week to our dedicated coronavirus section on our website, and to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Many of our producers and correspondents are working from home too. We are enjoying a new video conference call system in lieu of our daily face-to-face meetings (one highlight has been the occasional guest appearance of a NewsHour family baby or dog).
Live television like ours cannot be easily done on a total “work from home” basis, however. We are fortunate to have an incredibly dedicated crew here at WETA, who, along with a minimum number of editorial staff, are in the studio to produce the program. We are reducing the in-studio footprint of our team literally each day, as we pull in more technical tools and workflow adjustments to make remote production possible.
While we will not compromise on the journalism, we are willing to compromise on some of the production expectations. For instance, we have made the decision to dramatically limit the number of guests and reporters on our set and you will be seeing more interviews by Skype connection. Even our correspondents have Skype set-ups in their homes. Our reporters are sitting further away from each other on the set. We are practicing “social distancing” both on camera and off.
We are fortunate to have our PBS NewsHour WEST bureau in Phoenix at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. That dedicated team remains in operation and provides an excellent back-up to our Washington bureau should we need to temporarily close. None of these are easily made adjustments, but they will allow us to stay on the air even under these very trying conditions.
One special note. We hope you will tune into PBS on Thursday, March 19 at 8 pm ET for Confronting Coronavirus: A PBS NewsHour Special. Anchored by our managing editor, Judy Woodruff, we will take a deep look at the challenges this pandemic presents for our health system, our economy and our government preparedness, both on a federal and local level. Senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz will be taking audience questions – from NewsHour’s social and digital platforms – to experts in these fields. And we will hear from reporters around the globe who will tell us how their countries are coping and where the U.S. is along the continuum of this global experience.
Finally, I want to note that it is a part of the NewsHour’s DNA to dig deep on the big story but not limit our work to one story, even an all-consuming one like this. We are devoting most of our resources to covering the coronavirus, but there is still an election year to cover, as well as issues around the world and here at home that matter to all of us, including education, science, criminal justice and so much more. We are also committed to making room for stories about how our communities are connecting in new ways, and shining a light on hope, resilience and beauty in our world. We are grateful for the uplift that our arts series and website, CANVAS, provide now more than ever. And on rare occasion, our incredible anchor, Judy Woodruff, shares an editorial note like this one that moves us all.
We are so grateful for your support of the PBS NewsHour especially during these challenging times.
Wishing good health and peace to you and your loved ones,
Executive Producer, PBS NewsHour; SVP, WETA