Monday, June 17, 2013

Concerns over money at PBS Newshour

PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff at the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the 2012 campaign season.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user NewsHour)

It is being reported that there have been concerns over the fiscal nature of the PBS Newshour program.

According to a report in The New York Times cited by Current, it is said executives at MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the producers of Newshour, requested emergency funding increments from PBS to help pay its bills. It is said Newshour has a $7 million deficit on a $28 million budget.

The report indicates that PBS gave the money, but was calling for changes to the program, including a permanent anchor (or two co-anchors). PBS also has spent $3 million on a weekend edition of Newshour, which is said to be being produced by member station WNET in New York.

In a post on the Newshour's web site, senior correspondent Gwen Ifill said the program was different compared to competitors in broadcast and in cable, in response to a column by the Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik. "We skip the stories on the pole-dancing girlfriends and the Arias-type trials. We know there are other places to go for that," Ifill said. "But we still stick by our core mission, to provide news and information for people who choose to know more than what their home browser page can show them."

Kathleen McCleery, the Deputy Executive Producer of Newshour, in a letter to Zurawik, said the program's commitment to quality journalism would continue. "We believe our efforts to reorganize and streamline our operations will allow us to continue doing what we've done well for more than three decades: supply a steady, objective voice in reporting the news on a daily basis," McCleery said. "Our mission is to provide intelligent, balanced and in-depth reporting and analysis of the most important issues and news events of the day. That mission continues."

Meanwhile, anchor Judy Woodruff tweeted this regarding the issue. "There are far worse things to be accused of than trying to create good journalism and trying to find a way to pay for it."

A spokesperson for PBS declined to comment, but said the Newshour has been a key part of PBS' schedule and mission for decades. A spokesperson for the Newshour declined to comment beyond the post on the web site.

The money concerns come also as Newshour faces criticism in a report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, saying that it needed to modernize their news gathering operations.

A call to the Gates Foundation seeking comment is awaiting a reply.

Additionally, WNET and PBS confirmed the production of PBS Newshour weekend in a statement released June 17, which sees an expansion of operations for the program in New York.

What do you think? Can the PBS Newshour recover from the financial issues? What should be done?

Let me know, either in the comments section below, on my Facebook page or tweet me.

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