The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer And PBS Announce Major Changes

Recognizing that PBS and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer have both an opportunity and an obligation to play a leadership role in the transformation of high-quality electronic journalism, Jim Lehrer, executive editor of The NewsHour, announced today that The NewsHour will make major changes in its broadcast and digital news product, effective mid-September 2009.

Among the changes outlined by Mr. Lehrer and Linda Winslow, executive producer of The NewsHour, are a change in the name of the program from The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer to PBS NewsHour; a change in the broadcast format — moving from a single anchor to a dual anchor each evening; and the addition of a correspondent who will serve as a bridge between The NewsHour‘s broadcast and digital platforms. Lehrer will remain executive editor and primary anchor of the new PBS NewsHour and will lead the transition. The announcement was made at the PBS Showcase, an annual gathering of local PBS station leaders, being held at the Baltimore Waterfront Marriot Hotel.

“We welcome change and look forward to a new and enhanced NewsHour that better meets the demands of our audience, regardless of whether they come to us on-air or online,” said Lehrer in addressing the announced changes. “What will not change is our commitment to serious journalism — MacNeil-Lehrer journalism — the kind of work we’ve been doing for 35 years. This is needed now more than ever.”

The new program title represents the marriage of two of the best brands in media. “PBS and The NewsHour stand for quality reporting and analysis that are in-depth, trustworthy and fair,” added Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “PBS and public media play a unique role in delivering to Americans the news and information they value and need. The changes outlined today represent innovative steps PBS and one of its flagship producers will take to better serve our audiences and deliver on the promise of the rapidly evolving news and public affairs landscape.”

In further explaining the changes, Linda Winslow mentioned that “changing the program title is just the beginning. For starters, we will fully merge our on-air and online news operations into one entity in a way that reinforces our core mission.” Many of the proposed NewsHour changes have been guided by audience and local station research conducted over the past year, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

The primary product will continue to be straightforward, informative news reporting and analysis. But the long-range goal of these changes is to position PBS and PBS NewsHour as the serious news source of record on all distribution platforms, whenever, and wherever, audiences choose to look for NewsHour content. As with the current NewsHour, the new PBS NewsHour will be available via broadcast television, public and satellite radio, video-on-demand, online, streaming video and podcast. PBS NewsHour will continue to embrace new and emerging video platforms and will be available on additional platforms soon.

The NewsHour is at the center of the multi-program PBS news and public affairs service and the changes announced today will help ensure that The NewsHour remains vital and accessible to citizens in the digital age,” said John Boland, PBS Chief Content Officer. We are undergoing revolutionary change in the way audiences access and use content, and we are delighted that Jim Lehrer and his team are leading the way with these innovations. There will be more changes to come as PBS continues to evolve to meet the needs of the American public.”

In September, viewers will see the following enhancements to The NewsHour:


  • The daily PBS NewsHour broadcast will move to a dual anchor format, with Jim Lehrer regularly joined by NewsHour senior correspondents Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff and Jeffrey Brown in the studio. Senior correspondents Ray Suarez and Margaret Warner will primarily focus on “out of studio” reporting. The objective of the dual anchor format is to better engage NewsHour viewers and strengthen their connection to the program. By sending senior correspondents out of the studio, the program seeks to make better use of their reporting talents and add texture to the broadcast.

  • PBS NewsHour will merge on-air and online operations into one entity in a way that reinforces its core mission. Through the integration of its reporting teams, PBS NewsHour will provide news content best suited to specific platforms. There will also be a new player on the team, an online correspondent, who will represent the link between the online news operation and the nightly broadcast. This person will post four-to-five-minute video news summaries online throughout the day and also anchor the news summary on the nightly PBS NewsHour broadcast.

  • PBS NewsHour will have new title animation, along with new program graphics. The new graphic look of the program will carry over to the digital platform for a unified identity, signaling to the audience that PBS NewsHour is accessible 24 hours a day.

  • PBS NewsHour will also redesign its Web site to accommodate the news summaries, along with the increasing number of unique sub-sites created to capitalize on the personalities and strengths of various correspondents — for example, economic correspondent Paul Solman’s Business Desk and Jeff Brown’s Art Beat — as well as other correspondents and reporting units.

  • Another big part of the PBS NewsHour plan is the collaboration with public media content producers — both national and local — including FRONTLINE, NPR and local public media producers. This collaboration will deliver strong content to a wider audience, bringing additional perspective and depth to PBS NewsHour‘s reporting and analysis of national and international events.

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