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PBS

MacNeil-Lehrer Productions To Give Up Ownership of The ‘PBS NewsHour’

newshoursmallThe “PBS NewsHour” will likely be getting new owners in the coming weeks. The public-TV stalwart, which has had some troubling months, even as it expanded to the weekend, is in talks with Washington DC public TV station WETA about assuming control of the program, the New York Times reports.

The last six months have been extremely important for the program. In June, it laid off staff and closed down its domestic bureaus, citing a slowdown in corporate revenue and changing technologies. In August, it named Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill co-anchors of the program, the first time two women have helmed a network evening newscast. Last month it launched a weekend edition of the program, anchored by Hari Sreenivasan, and produced by New York public TV station WNET.

The “NewsHour” was founded as “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” by Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, whose names adorn the production company that produces the program. Lehrer was involved in the program into this year, even as he officially retired in 2011.

Charlie Rose Interviews Bashar al-Assad

“CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose got an interview today with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This is Assad’s first TV interview since President Obama asked Congress to approve the use of force against the Syrian regime for use of chemical weapons. Rose, now in Beirut, called in to “Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer

“He denied that he had anything to do with the attack. He denied thad he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack, notwithstanding what has been said, and notwithstanding the videotape. He said there’s not evidence to make a conclusive judgment. He would not say, even though I read him the lead paragraph of the New York Times today, in a story about their chemical weapons supply. He said ‘I can’t confirm or deny we have chemical weapons.’ He did say, if we do in fact have them, and ‘I’m not saying yes or no.’ they’re in centralized control, so no one else has access to them.”

When Rose asked him if he expected an attack, he responded, “I don’t know.”

The interview will air tomorrow on “CBS This Morning” and on Rose’s PBS show tomorrow night.

PBS ‘NewsHour Weekend’ Readies For Launch

This weekend, the “PBS NewsHour” expands to weekends (and to New York City), with the debut of “PBS Newshour Weekend.” Anchored by Hari Sreenivasan, the weekend edition of the iconic evening news program will be shortened to half an hour (yes, a half-hour “NewsHour”), and will be produced by New York City PBS station WNET.

“It is an expression of continuity and change. One of the discussions I had with ["NewsHour" EP Linda Winslow] early on was about that. Are we looking for continuity or change?,” the weekend program’s executive producer Marc Rosenwasser says, sitting in a conference room at the WNET offices in midtown Manhattan. ”The answer we came up with was both.”

“The line we have to walk is between upholding the very rich traditions of the ‘NewsHour,’ which we respect tremendously and the nation respects tremendously as this great, valuable brand that has an almost unique place contextualizing and analyzing the news,” he added. “At the same time, moving forward as many weekend shows at all the networks work, as kind of a laboratory too.”

For the new team in New York and the “NewsHour” team in DC, the challenge is keeping the spirit of the weekday program, while simultaneously expanding its boundaries.

“It is still pretty rare to have 40-year long brands that have lasted,” Sreenivasan says. “Sure, we could use a few million more dollars, but we have somehow managed to survive in the marketplace, even with all the commercial competition, even with the current landscape.”

That isn’t to say there haven’t been hiccups along the way.

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ESPN Ombudsman: Trailer For ‘Frontline’ Doc A Catalyst For Channel Dropping Out

The bombshell news late last week that ESPN would be pulling out of a PBS “Frontline” documentary on concussions in the NFL continues. The latest comes from ESPN’s ombudsman, Robert Lipsyte, as well as Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch, who each shed new light on the situation.

Lipsyte talks to ESPN president John Skipper, who says it was a trailer for the doc that was the catalyst for the decision to drop out of the project (watch the trailer below).

He hadn’t seen the trailer or approved its content, which included the ESPN logo and a collaboration credit. He thought it was “odd for me not to get a heads up,” and said it made him “quite unhappy” to discover that ESPN had no editorial control over the trailer.

Upon screening it, Skipper said he found the trailer to be “sensational.” He particularly objected to the tagline — “Get ready to change the way you see the game” — and to the final sound bite in the piece, from neuropathologist Ann McKee. Referring to brain injuries, she says, “I’m really wondering if every single football player doesn’t have this.”

Skipper said he found that comment to be “over the top.”

Lipsyte also reports that Skipper talked to Disney CEO Bob Iger and lawyers at both companies before pulling out of the project.

In SI, Deitsch looks at what comes next for the book League of Denial, which the “Frontline” doc is based on, and which was written by two brothers… who are ESPN investigative reporters.
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ESPN Backs Out Of PBS ‘Frontline’ Documentary On NFL Concussions

It was one of the biggest sports media stories of 2012. ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader” in sports, would be partnering with the PBS investigative series “Frontline” on a series of reports on concussions in the NFL, culminating with a film this October.

The partnership resulted in a number of long-form articles about the NFL’s response to concussions, as well as a number of reports on “Outside the Lines,” ESPN’s acclaimed newsmagazine.

Now, the partnership is seemingly dead in the water, as ESPN has pulled its support from the project, just a few months before the feature documentary “League of Denial” debuts on PBS. “Frontline” will move forward with the project on its own.

On the “Frontline” blog, the producers explain:

We don’t normally comment on investigative projects in progress, but we regret ESPN’s decision to end a collaboration that has spanned the last 15 months and is based on the work of ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, as well as FRONTLINE’s own original journalism…

The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input. The two-hour documentary and accompanying digital reporting will honor FRONTLINE’s rigorous standards of fairness, accuracy, transparency and depth.

ESPN, in a statement, says that the fact that it did not have editorial control was the reason for backing out. It does not explain why the channel waited until now to do so.
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Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff Named Co-Anchors of the ‘PBS NewsHour’

At the Television Critics Association Summer Press tour in Beverly Hills this afternoon, PBS named Gwen ifill and Judy Woodruff as the co-anchors and managing editors of the “PBS NewsHour,” making them the first all-female co-anchor team in broadcast news.

Ifill and Woodruff will formally take the reins of the program in September, replacing the rotating anchor format that the program has utilized over the last few years.

Woodruff will anchor the program solo on Fridays, as “Washington Week,” which Ifill also hosts, tapes that day. The pair had been the most frequent anchors on the program since Jim Lehrer stepped down in 2011, and they also anchored the program’s debate, convention and election coverage.

PBS also added specific responsibilities to a number of correspondents. Hari Sreenivasan–who will be anchoring the upcoming weekend edition of the program–will serve as senior correspondent, with Jeffrey Brown becoming chief correspondent for arts, culture and society, Ray Suarez chief national correspondent and Margaret Warner chief foreign correspondent.

The changes come as the “NewsHour” seeks to reinvent itself for the 21st century. While it is adding a weekend edition produced by WNET, the show also saw a number of layoffs in June, including the shuttering of its U.S.  bureaus.

More below.
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PBS Adds ‘NewsHour Weekend’ To Fall Lineup

PBS has made it official: there will be a new half-hour weekend edition of the “PBS NewsHour” coming later this year.

“PBS NewsHour Weekend” will debut September 7, and will be anchored by Hari Sreenivasan (pictured left), a correspondent for the weekday edition of the program. Sreenivasan writes about what he hopes to accomplish at the new program here.

Unlike the weekday edition of “NewsHour,” which originates from Washington DC, the weekend edition will originate from New York City, at the studios of WNET at Lincoln Center.

“I am delighted about the expansion of the ‘NewsHour’ to the weekend,” said Jim Lehrer, executive editor, and founding former news anchor for ‘PBS NewsHour’ in a statement. “I welcome this latest expansion of our brand of trusted and balanced journalism. Plus, it is equally wonderful to rekindle our relationship with WNET, where Robert MacNeil and I started nearly 40 years ago.”

The expansion in New York City comes as the “NewsHour” was forced to lay off staff in its Denver and San Francisco offices, as well as some production roles in Washington DC.

More, after the jump.
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Charlie Rose To Interview President Obama On PBS, Snowden’s Father Talks To Fox News

“CBS This Morning” and PBS anchor Charlie Rose will air an interview with President Obama on his eponymous PBS program tonight at 11 PM ET.

The interview was conducted yesterday before the President left for the G8 Summit in Belfast, Northern Island, and features a discussion on the NSA, drone policy and the Middle East.

The interview will re-air on Bloomberg TV tomorrow. You should also expect to see some clips on “CBS This Morning” tomorrow morning.

It will be the President’s first sit-down interview since the NSA scandal erupted. He spoke to NBC News in April, and ABC News and Telemundo in March. Rose last interviewed the President in July, 2012.

On Fox News, Eric Bolling has an exclusive interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden‘s father, Lonnie Snowden:

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The ‘PBS NewsHour’ Debates Its Own Future


With the news this week that the “PBS NewsHour” would be laying off staff and reorganizing in order trim costs, the show’s future has become a hot topic of debate.

The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik wrote that the “NewsHour” had become a shadow of what it once was:

“Forget the world, they couldn’t cover stories down the street in Washington on their own most nights,” Zurawik writes. “Some nights, when they tried to re-purpose a piece that had run previously by giving a new introduction, it was just plain embarrassing.”

That column drew a sharp rebuke in letters from the “NewsHour,” with Gwen Ifill, EP Kathleen McCleery and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions CEO Bo Jones, both of which the “NewsHour” posted on its own site under the headline “Is The NewsHour” Worth Saving?”

“Is it what NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and CNN produce on a nightly basis? No. And it never has been. That’s pretty much why I work here,” Ifill wrote. “We skip the stories on the pole-dancing girlfriends and the Arias-type trials. We know there are other places to go for that. 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.”

Today, The New York TimesElizabeth Jensen weighs in. At the end of her piece, Jensen reveals some news about where the program may be headed:
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‘PBS NewsHour’ Lays Off Staff In Reorganization

The “PBS NewsHour” is laying off staff in a significant reorganization, TVNewser has learned.

According to an internal memo obtained by TVNewser, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions–which produces the “NewsHour”–will be shutting down its offices in Denver and San Francisco, eliminating nearly all the positions there. The company will also eliminate several production positions in its Washington DC office, while leaving two open senior-level roles unfilled.The “NewsHour” is also planning to save money by streamlining and digitizing its technical process.

“This difficult step comes after more than a year spent reviewing how the ‘NewsHour’ functions, and determining the streamlining necessary to address both the funding challenges (primarily a steady drop in corporate revenue) and the opportunities presented by new technologies,” wrote “NewsHour” EP Linda Winslow and MacNeil/Lehrer president Bo Jones in the memo to staff.

The changes will go into effect at the start of the new fiscal year, July 1. None of the affected staffers were named in the email, but TVNewser hears that one of those departing is San Francisco correspondent Spencer Michels, who started reporting for the program 30 years ago.

While the program will still maintain in-house crews, the “NewsHour” will rely more on freelance contributions going forward.

“Along with sending our own teams in the field, we anticipate building new relationships with a variety of locally-based freelance video journalists around the country,” Winslow wrote to staff. “Under no circumstances do we intend to abandon the mini-documentary reports that have become so critical to our broadcast. The NewsHour remains committed to delivering the same kind of in-depth reporting our viewers and supporters expect from us.”
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