PBS NewsHour

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 350 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.

PBS NewsHour
PBS NewsHour logo used since December 7, 2009
Also known as
  • The Robert MacNeil Report (1975–1976)
  • The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (1976–1983)
  • The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (1983–1995)
  • The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer (1995–2009)
  • PBS NewsHour Weekend (weekend editions)
  • PBS NewsHour West (western edition)
GenreNews magazine
Created by
Directed by
  • Joseph Camp (Washington)
  • Eulogio Ortiz (New York)
Presented byWeekdays:
Theme music composer
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English (US)
Executive producer(s)
  • Sara Just (Washington)
  • Dana Roberson (New York)
Production location(s)
Running time
  • 60 minutes (1983-present)
  • 30 minutes (1975-1983, 2013-present)
Production company(s)
  • WNET (weekday editions, 1975–1995; weekend editions, September 2013–present)
  • WETA-TV (weekday editions, 1995–present)
  • MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (September 1981–June 30, 2014)
  • NewsHour Productions (WETA-TV) (July 1, 2014–present)
Original networkPBS
Picture format480i (SDTV) (1975-2007)
1080i (HDTV) (2007-present)
Original releaseOctober 20, 1975 (1975-10-20) 
External links

Anchored by Judy Woodruff, the program's weekday broadcasts run one hour in length and are produced by Washington, D.C. PBS station WETA-TV. From August 2013 to October 2016, Woodruff and then-co-anchor Gwen Ifill were the first and only all-female anchor team of a national nightly news program on broadcast television.[2] On Saturdays and Sundays, PBS distributes a 30-minute edition of the program titled PBS NewsHour Weekend, anchored by Hari Sreenivasan and many others. The program is produced from New York City by WNET.[3]

The PBS NewsHour originates from WETA's studio facilities in Arlington County, Virginia (for its weekday editions), Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication (also for its weekday editions, but for news updates targeted towards West Coast, online, and late-night feed viewers), and the Tisch/WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in Manhattan (for its weekend editions); additional facilities are located in San Francisco and Denver.[4] The program is a collaboration between WETA-TV, WNET, and fellow PBS member stations KQED in San Francisco, KETC in St. Louis and WTTW in Chicago.


The Robert MacNeil Report and The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (1975–1983)

External video
The Robert MacNeil Report; 19; New York City and C367 Bailout, segment starts at 2:45,
November 13, 1975,
NewsHour Productions and American Archive of Public Broadcasting[5]

In 1973, Robert MacNeil (a former NBC News correspondent and then-moderator of PBS' Washington Week in Review) and Jim Lehrer teamed up to cover the United States Senate's Watergate hearings for PBS. The two earned an Emmy Award for their unprecedented gavel-to-gavel coverage.[6]

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 1 12 months later, on December 1, 1975, the program began to air on PBS stations nationwide. The program was renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report on September 6, 1976.[7] 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, Virginia. Charlayne Hunter-Gault joined the series in 1978 as correspondent, serving as substitute host for MacNeil and Lehrer whenever either of them had the night off. She became the series’ national correspondent in 1983. 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.[8]

The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer (1983–2009)

Having decided to start competing with the nightly news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC instead of complementing them, the program expanded to one hour on September 5, 1983, incorporating other changes such as the introduction of "documentary reportage from the field";[9] it became known at that time as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

Robert MacNeil retired from the program on October 20, 1995, leaving Jim Lehrer as the sole anchor (Charlayne Hunter-Gault would later leave in June 1997).[10] Accordingly, the program was renamed The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer three days later on October 23.[11] On January 16, 1996, The NewsHour announced the creation of its official website at PBS Online.[12] The NewsHour won a Peabody Award in 2003 for the feature report Jobless Recovery: Non-Working Numbers.[13] On May 17, 1999, The NewsHour adopted a new graphics package, but refreshed the music from 1983. On October 4, 1999, Gwen Ifill joined The NewsHour team, as a new correspondent. She was a female anchor of a national nightly news program on broadcast television.[14] Effective January 17, 2000, The NewsHour added "America Online Keyword: PBS" at ending screen when AOL and PBS Enter Strategic Online, the On-Air Alliance for a 3-year agreement through effectively April 22, 2003.[15][16][17] For only the PBS website, the program took effect on April 23, 2003.[18] On March 3, 2003, the program added dates from the 1999 graphics in the beginning.[19] On November 17, 2003, The NewsHour added music in the beginning with dates.[20]

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).[21][22] On December 17, 2007,[23][24][25] the NewsHour became the second nightly broadcast network newscast to begin broadcasting in high definition (after NBC Nightly News on March 26, 2007), with 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 year[26] under a revised title as the PBS NewsHour.[27] In addition to an increased integration between the NewsHour website and nightly broadcast, the updated production would return to a two-anchor format.[28] 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.[29]

Lehrer formally ended his tenure as a regular anchor of the program in June 6, 2011. He continued to occasionally anchor on Fridays afterward, when he usually led the political analysis segment with Mark Shields and David Brooks, until December 30, 2011.[30]

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

On August 6, 2013, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named as co-anchors and co-managing editors of the NewsHour broadcast. The two shared 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 was also produced Friday evenings).[31]

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.[32][33] Plans for a weekend edition of PBS NewsHour had been considered as early as March 2013.[34]

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."[35][36] 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.[8]

On July 20, 2015, the PBS NewsHour introduced an overhauled visual appearance for its weekday broadcasts, debuting a new minimalist set designed by Eric Siegel and George Allison that 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 and a musical signature that had been featured on Nightly Business Report between 2002 and 2010.[37][38][39][40] PBS NewsHour Weekend retained its original 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 29, 2015, when the program transitioned to the same theme music and a reworked version of the graphics package used for the weekday NewsHour broadcasts.

Gwen Ifill took brief breaks from her anchor duties on the PBS NewsHour in the late spring and in November 2016 (and was also absent from the program's presidential election coverage on November 8), as she had been privately undergoing treatment for advanced stage breast and endometrial cancer. After her death was announced on November 14, 2016, that evening's edition of the NewsHour was turned into a tribute to Ifill and her influence on journalism, featuring tributes from Woodruff, Sreenivasan, former colleagues and program contributors (news content was relegated to the standard news summary, which aired during the second half-hour).[41][42][43][44][45] Although the program initially featured guest anchors on some editions between January and March 2017, Judy Woodruff effectively now serves as sole anchor of the PBS NewsHour.

On October 14, 2019, the PBS Newshour launched "PBS Newshour West", a Western United States bureau at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix. Anchored by Stephanie Sy, the bureau produces its own news summary with up-to-date information on events that develop following the conclusion of the original broadcast. A version of the program with this summary is shown to broadcast viewers in the Western United States and to online and East Coast viewers watching re-broadcasts.[46]

Production and ratings

The program is notable for being shown on public television. 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, which are substituted with encore presentations of a select story segment from the past year for stations that are not holding a drive during that time).

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 twelve 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; since Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill became anchors of the program, these essays have mainly aired as part of the end-of-show segment "Brief, but Spectacular".

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 September 21, 2001, 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, David Corn and E.J. Dionne. On Mondays, a similar segment called "Politics Monday" features analysis and discussion of current political issues with contributors Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, and Tamara Keith, Washington D.C. correspondent for NPR.

The program's senior correspondents are Jeffrey Brown (Arts, Culture & Society) and Judy Woodruff (anchor & senior managing editor). Essayists have included Anne Taylor Fleming, Richard Rodriguez, Clarence Page and Roger Rosenblatt.[47] Correspondents have been Tom Bearden, Betty Ann Bowser, Susan Dentzer, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Kwame Holman, Spencer Michels, Fred de Sam Lazaro (on the Agents For Change series), the economics correspondent Paul Solman (Making Sen$e), Malcolm Brabant and others.[48]

Former NewsHour anchors Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill were frequent moderators of U.S. political debates. By November 2008, Lehrer had moderated more than ten debates between major U.S. presidential candidates.[49] 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.[50]

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 March 31, 2003. 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 350 PBS member stations and networks, making it available to 99% of the viewing public, and audio from the program is broadcast by some NPR radio stations. It is also rebroadcast twice daily in late night via American Public Television's World digital subchannel service. Broadcasts of the NewsHour are also made available worldwide via satellites operated by various agencies such as the 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 the NewsHour's subscriptions page with link to a FeedBurner website (for free mp3 download) and through the iTunes Store.

Only a small handful of PBS member stations and regional member networks do not air the NewsHour, a pool of member outlets mainly confined to "secondary" stations that share another market with a "primary" PBS member station. These include the NJTV network in New Jersey (as WNET, which co-manages NJTV and WLIW, carries the program in the New York City area, while WHYY-TV does so in the Philadelphia market); KVCR-DT in San Bernardino, California (KOCE-TV carries it as San Bernardino is within the Los Angeles market), and Chicago-area stations WYCC and Northwest Indiana-serving WYIN (due to WTTW's PBS primacy). In Boston, WGBH-TV airs the program live each weeknight (with a simulcast online), while its secondary station WGBX rebroadcasts the weekday editions of the NewsHour later the same evening, and the weekend editions live. KQED in San Francisco, airs the program each weeknight in simulcast with its radio sister, at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time (6:00 p.m. Eastern Time). Unusually for many years, the secondary station as part of Milwaukee PBS, WMVT, carried the program rather than main station WMVS as part of an early-evening news block with the Nightly Business Report (which is the lead-in to Newshour on many member stations), and half-hour international newscasts from Deutsche Welle and BBC World News, due to an expanded schedule of PBS Kids and local-interest programming on WMVS; this has since been rectified with the launch of the all-hours PBS Kids subchannel network.

Live streaming

The PBS NewsHour is streamed live via USTREAM and YouTube every weeknight at 6 pm ET. The NewsHour Weekend is also streamed on both platforms, every weekend live at 5 pm ET. Full episodes are available later, edited without sponsorship, on the NewsHour YouTube channel. In addition, the NewsHour streamed the inauguration of Donald Trump via Twitter.

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."[53][54]

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."

Current on-air staff

  • Judy Woodruff – weekday anchor (Joined December 20, 1976 – June 24, 1993; joined CNN Group and returned to PBS on April 12, 2006)
  • Hari Sreenivasan – weekend anchor, substitute weekday anchor (Joined December 7, 2009)
  • Jeffrey Brown – chief correspondent for arts, culture, and society, substitute weekday anchor (Joined December 23, 1998)
  • John Yang – special correspondent, substitute weekday anchor (Joined March 1, 2016)
  • Miles O'Brien – science & aviation correspondent, substitute anchor (Joined February 9, 2010)
  • Lisa Desjardins – political correspondent (Joined October 29, 2014)
  • William Brangham – regular interviewer and occasional substitute anchor for the weekday and weekend program (Joined August 10, 2012)
  • Amna Nawaz – national correspondent and substitute anchor (Joined April 6, 2018)
  • Nick Schifrin – foreign affairs and defense and substitute anchor (Joined February 10, 2016)
  • Yamiche Alcindor – White House correspondent (Joined December 31, 2015)
  • Paul Solman – business, economics and occasional art correspondent, creator of Making Sen$e (Joined September 1, 1978)
  • Malcolm Brabant – special correspondent, especially reporting from Europe, based in Denmark (Joined June 15, 2015)
  • Alison Stewart – substitute weekend anchor (Joined September 27, 2013)
  • Soledad O'Brien – substitute weekend anchor (Joined October 11, 2015)
  • Megan Thompson – substitute weekend anchor (Joined January 11, 2013)
  • Mike Taibbi – special correspondent for the Weekend program (Joined April 11, 2015)
  • P.J. Tobia – foreign affairs editor (Joined June 19, 2013)
  • Fred De Sam Lazaro – correspondent for the Agents For Change series (Joined December 10, 1985)
  • Stephanie Sy – correspondent and PBS NewsHour West anchor (Joined October 14, 2019)

Political analysts

Former on-air staff

  • Robert MacNeil – weekday anchor (October 20, 1975 – October 20, 1995; retired)
  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault – weekday anchor (July 18, 1977 – June 13, 1997; retired)
  • Jim Lehrer – weekday anchor (March 15, 1976 – June 6, 2011; retired except on Fridays until his last day December 30, 2011 and his last day as executive editor on September 26, 2014)
  • Margaret Warner – weekday anchor (June 24, 1993 – September 7, 2017; now a White House correspondent)
  • Ray Suarez – weekday anchor (September 9, 1988 – October 25, 2013; now a correspondent)
  • Gwen Ifill – weekday anchor (formerly Senior Correspondent) (October 4, 1999 – November 14, 2016; died from endometrial cancer)

Criticism & reception

In 1992, radio broadcaster David Barsamian called the NewsHour "stenographers to power," accusing them and other American news media of having a pro-establishment bias.[55] On December 2, 2019, PBS NewsHour hosted a segment discussing a presidential primary election. Supporters of Sanders allege that it focused unevenly on minor candidates. Left leaning magazine Current Affairs wrote that even though the segment "found time to talk about Joe Sestak and Steve Bullock, plus plenty of candidates struggling to get out of single-digit poll numbers" it did not include "even a photo of Bernie Sanders." This article later was cited in an article by Common Dreams which levied the same accusation, describing it as part of the supposed "Bernie Blackout".

Critical response

PBS NewsHour has received generally positive reviews from television critics and parents of young children. Patrick Kevin Day of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff are making history on PBS."[56] David Leonard and Micah Schwalb of The Denver Post wrote, "One of the most trusted news programs on television."[57]

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 for presenting 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.[58] 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.[59]

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).[60]

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.[61][62]

Partnership with NPR

The PBS NewsHour partnered with NPR for the broadcast of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of 2016, in a strategy to prepare for the election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.[63][64][65][66][67]


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