PBS NewsHour

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PBS NewsHour1
PBS NewsHour logo used since December 7, 2009.
Also known as The Robert MacNeil Report (October–December 1975)
The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (1975–1983)
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (1983–1995)
The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer (1995–2009)
PBS NewsHour Weekend (weekend editions; 2014–present)
Created by Robert MacNeil
Jim Lehrer
Directed by Joseph Camp (Washington)
Eulogio Ortiz (New York)
Presented by Robert MacNeil (1975–1995)
Jim Lehrer (1975–2011)
Gwen Ifill (weekday editions, 2013–present)
Judy Woodruff (weekday editions, 2013–present)
Hari Sreenivasan (weekend editions, 2013–present)
Theme music composer Bernard Hoffer (1979–2009)
David Cebert (2009–2015)
Edd Kalehoff (2015–present)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Sara Just
Location(s) WETA-TV studios, Arlington, Virginia (weekday editions)
Tisch WNET Studios, New York City (weekend editions)
Running time 60 minutes (weekday editions)
30 minutes (weekend editions)
Production company(s) WNET/New York City (weekday editions, 1975–1981; weekend editions, 2014–present)
MacNeill/Lehrer Productions (1981–2013)
NewsHour Productions (WETA-TV/Washington, D.C.) (2013–present)
Original channel PBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release October 20, 1975 (1975-10-20) – present
External links

The PBS NewsHour is an American daily evening television news program that is broadcast on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), airing seven nights a week on more than 300 of the public broadcaster's member stations. As the nation's first hour-long nightly news broadcast, the program is known for its in-depth coverage of issues and current events.

Since August 2013, the program's weekday broadcasts – which run one hour in length, and are produced by Washington, D.C. member station WETA-TV – have been co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff (who are at present, the only two women serving as lead anchors of a national nightly news program on broadcast television).2 Since its launch in September of that same year, the Saturday and Sunday editions of the program (titled as PBS NewsHour Weekend) – which run for 30 minutes and are produced by New York City PBS member station WNET – have been anchored by Hari Sreenivasan.

The PBS NewsHour originates from WETA's studios in Arlington County, Virginia with additional facilities in San Francisco and Denver.3 It is a collaboration between WNET, WETA-TV, and fellow PBS member television station KQED in San Francisco.


The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (1975–1983)

In 1973, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer teamed up to cover the United States Senate Watergate hearings for PBS. The two earned an Emmy Award for their unprecedented gavel-to-gavel coverage.4

This recognition led to the 1975 creation of The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour local news program for WNET, which debuted on October 20 of that year; each episode of the program covered a single issue currently in the news in depth. Less than a 1½ months later on December 1, 1975, the program was renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and began to air on PBS stations nationwide. Most editions employed a two-anchor, two-city format, with MacNeil based in New York City and Lehrer based at WETA's studios in Arlington. In September 1981, production of the program was taken over by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a partnership between MacNeil, Lehrer and the Gannett Company; the latter would sell its stake in the production company in 1986. Liberty Media bought a 67% controlling equity stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1994, but MacNeil and Lehrer retained editorial control.5

The final title sequence as The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, used from May 17, 2006, to December 6, 2009.

The NewsHour (1983–2009)

On September 5, 1983, having decided to start competing with the nightly news programs on the Big Three television networksABC, CBS and NBC – instead of complementing them, the program was expanded to one hour and incorporated other changes such as the introduction of "documentary reportage from the field";6 it became known at that time as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

On October 20, 1995, Jim Lehrer became sole anchor. Accordingly, the program was renamed The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer three days later on October 23.7 The NewsHour won a Peabody Award in 2003 for the feature report Jobless Recovery: Non-Working Numbers.8

On May 17, 2006, the program underwent its first major change in presentation in years, adopting a new graphics package and a reorchestrated version of the show's theme music (originally composed by Bernard Hoffer).citation needed On December 17, 2007,9 the NewsHour became the second nightly broadcast network newscast to begin broadcasting in high definition (following NBC Nightly News, which switched to HD in March of that year), with the broadcasts presented in a letterboxed format for viewers with standard-definition television sets watching either through cable or satellite television. The program also introduced a new set and upconverted its existing graphics package to HD.

PBS NewsHour

Departure of Jim Lehrer and switch to co-anchors (2009–2013)

On May 11, 2009, PBS announced that the program would be revamped on December 7 of that year10 under a revised title as the PBS NewsHour.1 In addition to an increased integration between the NewsHour website and nightly broadcast, the updated production would feature co-anchors, as had been the practice until Robert MacNeil's 1995 departure from the program.11 The overhaul was described by Jim Lehrer as the first phase in his gradual move toward retirement.

On September 27, 2010, PBS NewsHour was presented with the chairman's Award at the 31st News & Documentary Emmy Awards, with Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, longtime executive producer Les Crystal, and former executive producer Linda Winslow receiving the award on the show's behalf.12

Lehrer formally ended his tenure as a regular anchor of the program in June 2011. He continued to occasionally anchor on Fridays afterward, when he usually leads the political analysis segment with Mark Shields and David Brooks.13

Transfer of production and expansion to weekends (2013–present)

Judy Woodruff interviewing US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in September 2013.

On August 6, 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named as co-anchors and co-managing editors of the NewsHour broadcast. The two share anchor duties on the Monday through Thursday editions, with Woodruff solo anchoring on Fridays due to Ifill's duties as host of the political discussion program Washington Week (which first airs on most PBS stations on Friday evenings).14

For much of its history, the PBS NewsHour aired only on Monday through Friday evenings; however on September 7, 2013, the program expanded to include weekend editions on Saturday and Sundays, with Hari Sreenivasan serving as anchor of those broadcasts. Although the weekend broadcasts are branded PBS NewsHour Weekend, those editions instead air for a half-hour; in addition, the Saturday and Sunday editions originate from the New York City studios of WNET, as opposed to the program's main production facilities at the Arlington, Virginia, studios of WETA-TV.1516 Plans for a weekend edition of PBS NewsHour had been considered as early as March 2013.17

MacNeil/Lehrer Productions announced in a letter to the show's staffers on October 8, 2013, that it had offered to transfer ownership in the PBS NewsHour to WETA. In the letter, Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil cited their reduced involvement with the program's production since their departures from anchoring, as well as "the probability of increasing our fundraising abilities."1819 The transfer was approved by the WETA board of trustees on June 17, 2014, and took effect on July 1. At that time, production of the program was taken over by NewsHour Productions, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of WETA. WETA also acquired MacNeil/Lehrer Productions' archives, documentaries, and projects, though not the company's name. PBS NewsHour Weekend was not affected by the ownership transfer and continues to be produced by WNET.5

On July 20, 2015, the PBS NewsHour introduced an overhauled visual appearance for its weekday broadcasts, debuting a new minimalistic set designed by Eric Siegel and George Allison, which heavily incorporates PBS' longtime "Everyman" logo. The program also introduced a new graphics package by Troika Design Group and an original theme music composition by Edd Kalehoff, which incorporates a reorchestration of the nine-note "Question and Answer" musical signature that has been featured within the program's theme since its premiere in 1975.20212223 PBS NewsHour Weekend retained its graphics package that had been used since the launch of the Saturday and Sunday editions, as well as the theme music by David Cebert until August 29th 2015, when the program transitioned to the same theme music and graphics package as the weekday PBS NewsHour.

Production and ratings

Behind the scenes at The Newshour, during a Gen. Peter Pace interview.

The program is notable for being shown on public television. As such, there are no interruptions during the program to run advertisements (though like most public television programs, it does feature "corporate image" advertisements at the beginning and end of each broadcasts, as well as barker interruptions extolling viewers to donate pledges to their local PBS member station or member network during locally produced pledge drive events).

The program has a more deliberate pace than the news broadcasts of the commercial networks it competes against, allowing for deeper detail in its story packages and feature segments. At the start of the program, the lead story is covered in depth, followed by a news summary that lasts roughly between six and eight minutes, briefly explaining many of the top national and international news headlines; international stories often include excerpts of reports filed by ITN correspondents. This is usually followed by three or four longer news segments – typically running six to 12 minutes each – which explore a few of the events previously mentioned in the headline segment in depth and include discussions with experts, newsmakers, and/or commentators. The program formerly included a reflective essay on a regular basis, but these have been curtailed in recent years. On Fridays, the program features political analysis and discussion between two regular contributors, one from each of the Republican and Democratic parties, and one host from among the senior correspondents. Since 2004, the usual participants have been syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Analysts who fill in when Shields or Brooks are absent have included David Gergen, Thomas Oliphant, Rich Lowry, William Kristol, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ruth Marcus, Michael Gerson, and E.J. Dionne.

The program's senior correspondents are Gwen Ifill, Margaret Warner, Jeffrey Brown and Judy Woodruff. Essayists have included Anne Taylor Fleming, Richard Rodriguez, Clarence Page and Roger Rosenblatt.24 Correspondents have been Tom Bearden, Betty Ann Bowser, Susan Dentzer, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Kwame Holman, Spencer Michels, Fred de Sam Lazaro, Paul Solman, and others.25

Former NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer and current anchor and senior correspondent Gwen Ifill are frequent moderators of U.S. political debates. By November 2008, Lehrer had moderated more than ten debates between major U.S. presidential candidates.26 In 2008, Ifill moderated a debate between U.S. vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin; in 2004, Ifill moderated a debate between candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards.27

After the United States–led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the NewsHour began what it called its "Honor Roll", a short segment displaying in silence the picture, name, rank, and hometown of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq. On January 4, 2006, the NewsHour added military personnel killed in Afghanistan to the segment. According to Nielsen ratings at the program's website, 2.7 million people watch the program each night, and 8 million individuals watch in the course of a week.


The NewsHour is broadcast on more than 300 PBS member stations, making it available to 99% of the viewing public, and audio from the program is broadcast by some NPR radio stations. Broadcasts of the NewsHour are also made available worldwide via satellites operated by various agencies such as Voice of America.

Archives of shows broadcast after February 7, 2000, are available in several streaming media formats (including full-motion video) at the program's website. The show is available to overseas military personnel on the American Forces Network. Audio from select segments is also released in podcast form, available through several feeds on PBS's subscriptions page and through the iTunes Store.

International broadcasts

NewsHour editorial guidelines

On December 4, 2009, when introducing the new PBS NewsHour format, Jim Lehrer read out a list of guidelines in what he referred to as "MacNeil/Lehrer journalism."30 They are as follows:

  • “Do nothing I cannot defend.”
  • “Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.”
  • “Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.”
  • “Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.”
  • “Assume the same about all people on whom I report.”
  • “Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.”
  • “Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.”
  • “Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions.”
  • “No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.”
  • “And finally, I am not in the entertainment business.”

On-air staff

Current on-air staff


  • Gwen Ifill – Monday through Thursday co-anchor
  • Judy Woodruff – weekday co-anchor (solo anchors on the Friday editions)
  • Hari Sreenivasan – weekend anchor; substitute anchor (when Ifill and/or Woodruff are away or on assignment); senior correspondent; director of digital development



Critics have accused the American news media—including the NewsHour—of having a pro-establishment bias.

In 1992 radio broadcaster David Barsamian called the NewsHour "stenographers to power."31

FAIR study

In October 2006 the media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) accused the NewsHour of lacking balance, diversity, and viewpoints of the general public, and corporate viewpoints. FAIR found that the NewsHour‍ '​s guest list from October 2005 to March 2006 had Republicans outnumbering Democrats 2–1, and people of color accounting for 15 percent of U.S.–based sources.32 FAIR also protested in 1995 when Liberty Media purchased a majority of the program, citing Liberty's majority owner, John Malone, for his "Machiavellian business tactics" and right-wing sentiments.33

NewsHour executive producer Linda Winslow responded to many aspects:

FAIR seems to be accusing us of covering the people who make decisions that affect people's lives, many of whom work in government, the military, or corporate America. That's what we do: we’re a news program, and that’s who makes news.... I take issue with the way the FAIR report characterizes each guest, which they have obviously done very subjectively. Witness the trashing of Mark Shields and Tom Oliphant (in the full report), who are not liberal enough for FAIR’s taste. When you get down to arguing about degrees of left-and-rightness, I think you undermine your own argument.

She also accused FAIR of counting sound bites as interviews, thereby skewing their numbers toward the political party holding a majority (at the time of FAIR’s report, Republican Party).34

Scholarly analysis

In 2003 UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose and Missouri economist Jeff Milyo evaluated various media programs based on "think tank" citations to map liberal versus conservative media slants and published a study alleging liberal media bias in general. Based on their research, PBS NewsHour is the most centrist news program on television and the closest to a truly objective stance.3536 However, their methodology has been questioned.37


  1. ^ a b Elizabeth Jensen (May 11, 2009). "'NewsHour' on PBS to Get Makeover". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved June 1, 20091.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ "Ifil and Woodruff named as co-anchors". PBS Newshour. August 6, 2013. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Contact Us". PBS NewsHour. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ "About US". PBS NewsHour. PBS. 
  5. ^ a b Dru Sefton (June 18, 2014). "WETA to create subsidiary for transfer of PBS NewsHour ownership". Current (Current LLC). Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ "No Blaring: MacNeil on Emmy, Keeping a Reasonable Tone in Broadcast News". PBS NewsHour. PBS. September 27, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "NewsHour History". PBS NewsHour. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Retrieved November 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ "63rd Annual Peabody Awards". Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. May 2004. 
  9. ^ Tom LeGro. "NewsHour High-Definition Broadcast FAQ". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ http://pressroom.pbs.org/documents/newshour_rls_512
  11. ^ Howard Kurtz (November 30, 2009). "PBS, changing 'NewsHour' to preserve it". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). pp. C01. Retrieved December 1, 2009. 
  12. ^ "The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces Winners...". National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. September 27, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Jim Lehrer to retire as PBS NewsHour anchor". The Spy Report (Media Spy). May 13, 2010. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff to co-anchor 'NewsHour'". Associated Press. August 6, 2013. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  15. ^ Kevin Day (June 17, 2013). "PBS' 'NewsHour' to expand to weekends in the fall". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Publishing). Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  16. ^ Mackenzie Weigner (June 17, 2013). "PBS NewsHour Weekend to premiere this fall". Politico (Capitol News Company). Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  17. ^ Elizabeth Jensen. "PBS Near a Decision on Adding a Weekend Edition of 'NewsHour'". The New York Times (The New York Times Companydate=March 4, 2013). Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  18. ^ Dru Sefton (October 9, 2013). "MacNeil, Lehrer propose to transfer ownership of PBS NewsHour to WETA". Current (Current, LLC). Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ Elizabeth Jensen (October 8, 2013). "'NewsHour' Ex-Anchors to Cede Ownership". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  20. ^ Corinne Segal (July 20, 2015). "The NewsHour has a new theme song, and we assume you’ll want to talk about it". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved July 26, 2015. 
  21. ^ Michael P. Hill (July 21, 2015). "‘PBS NewsHour’ gets airy new look". NewscastStudio. HD Media Ventures LLC. Retrieved July 26, 2015. 
  22. ^ Michael P. Hill (July 21, 2015). "‘PBS NewsHour’ retunes theme music". NewscastStudio. HD Media Ventures LLC. Retrieved July 26, 2015. 
  23. ^ "‘PBS NewsHour’ to debut new look". NewscastStudio. HD Media Ventures LLC. July 17, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Essays archive". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved December 17, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Correspondents". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved December 17, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Jim Lehrer: The Dean of Moderators". MSNBC. NBC News. September 29, 2004. Retrieved May 24, 2011. 
  27. ^ Claire Suddath (October 2, 2008). "Debate Moderator Gwen Ifill". Time (Time Inc.). Retrieved May 24, 2011. 
  28. ^ Meade, Amanda (August 4, 2011). "Al Jazeera news for SBS". The Australian. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Triangle TV Programme Information: PBS NewsHour". Triangle Television. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  30. ^ Another Chapter Begins for NewsHour Jim Lehrer. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, December 4, 2009.
  31. ^ David Barsamian, Stenographers to Power: Media and Propaganda (Common Courage P, 1992), 105.
  32. ^ Rendall, Steve; Hollar, Julie (September–October 2006). "Are You on the NewsHour's Guestlist? PBS flagship news show fails public mission". FAIR. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  33. ^ "MacNeil/Lehrer Sells Out, Extra! Update February 1995". Fair.org. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  34. ^ Getler, Michael (October 6, 2006). "A FAIR Analysis? By Michael Getler October 6, 2006". PBS. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  35. ^ Groseclose, Tim (2011). How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-55593-1. 
  36. ^ Jackson, Brad (August 10, 2011). "Left Turn: The Media’s Institutional Liberalism". The New Ledger. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  37. ^ "The problems with the Groseclose/Milyo study of media bias". Brendan Nyhan. 2005-12-22. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 

External links