New directions for “The NewsHour”

Every so often I punch up “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” from the Comcast On Demand menu. Fifteen minutes later, in a catatonic stupor, I fumble for the remote and choose something else. There is absolutely no need for a serious newscast to be that boring. NPR has hit on a formula that’s intelligent but also keeps things moving. So, presumably, can PBS.

So I was encouraged to read Elizabeth Jensen’s story in today’s New York Times about efforts to remake the newscast — efforts being supported, and even led, by Lehrer, the septuagenarian anchor. Among other things, the renewed program (to be renamed “The PBS NewsHour”), which debuts Dec. 7, will feature tighter integration with its online incarnation and weekly contributions from Boston-based GlobalPost.

Sounds promising.

9 thoughts on “New directions for “The NewsHour”

  1. As a Sixties alum of CBS News, the decade in which we fought to get — and got — a 30-minute evening newscast, I have long admired PBS’s deadly earnest and resolute determination to present an hour of serious news every evening; even when the size of the news hole exceeds the news, and even we admirers have nodded off. As you note, it’s just plain boring. So, while I too have high hopes for the recasting, I’m not sanguine that an hourlong newscast can ever — at such a length — actually be lively.

  2. Michael Pahre

    I’ve got a nearly 100% disagreement with you on this one.

    In 15 minutes of watching the News Hour (or NECN), I learn far more than I would after watching four hours of wing-fest on one of the slanted cable news evening lineups (FNC, MSNBC) or host-centered talk-fests on CNN. PBS’s use of Independent Television News reports gives an amazing perspective on world news that is missed from all other channels in the U.S.

    Our civic discourse would be far better and more civil if more people watched the News Hour.

    It’s not boring if you like learning something new or delving into the details of the issues (instead of a partisan, cherry-picked slant). It’s only boring if you want your news format to be modeled on Cross-Fire — or Jerry Springer.

    The News Hour did, in fact, make a significant change to their show a few months back. They now have an extended 5-10 minute discussion of the main issue of the news before continuing on to the summary of the rest of the news (and then the 3-5 10-15 minute segments). And complete video interviews (not just the pieces that make it onto the air) have been online regularly for some time, too.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      You know, Michael, that’s really B.S. given that I quite explicitly compared “The NewsHour” to NPR. Does “All Things Considered” make you think of Jerry Springer?

  3. Lafcadio Mullarkey

    Oh good, I thought it was just me. The comparison to NPR is a good one–it manages to “bring the news alive”.

    They should try to bring in talent who’ve done other work for them, like the wonderful Robert Krulwich, or TR Reid. Paul Solmon was also good. (Maybe he’s still with them?) Jim Lehrer should retire. And maybe more remote reporting and interviews. Have Brooks and Shields do their weekly chit-chat from a coffee shop in Kabul.

    Let the anchors continue to sit down though! No standing up, and no “flying sheets of lucite” a la Ch. 7.

  4. TomW

    I happened to catch BBC World News America a few weeks ago. I like it a lot. It’s also 60 minutes long, but much better than NewsHour. And they maintain my interest for most of the entire hour. Also, even though they have commercials, there are NONE for prescription or over-the-counter drugs. That’s a real relief!

  5. Tano

    I agree wholeheartedly with Micheal on this one. I watch NewsHour everyday, and find it to be consistently interesting show that gives a far broader, and deeper perspective on the news. All with no shouting and no glitz.
    I do not look to a news show to be entertained.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    The best television newscast I ever saw — not perfect, but more NPR-like than anything else that was on television — was Aaron Brown’s “NewsNight” on CNN.

    And it got better ratings than anything on CNN today.

  7. Laurence Glavin

    Let me get this straight: based on your prior posts about the Red Sox, it appears that you are willing to watch a BASEBALL game from start to finish, and you have the nerve to call ANYTHING else boring?

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