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PBS

Jim Lehrer on the Debate: ‘I understand why people were a little stunned by some of it’

Jim Lehrer to critics: Bring it.

PBS’s Lehrer today insisted that he’s unfazed by the avalanche of vitriolic responses to his moderator performance at Wednesday’s presidential debate, seen by an estimated 67 million Americans.

In Lehrer’s 12th presidential at-bat, critics blasted him for being too passive, allowing President Obama and Mitt Romney to steamroll him at will. Critics also said Lehrer’s questions were vague, and that they didn’t cover a broad enough range of issues.

“Everybody is welcome to criticize my questions, or anything else I did,” Lehrer, 78, says. “I have no problem with that. I knew, going in, this was not going to be easy. What the hell. … The next debate, people will tweet, tweet, tweet all over again. That’s terrific.”

Despite being constantly interrupted and talked over, Lehrer pronounced the new debate format — featuring 15-minute, wide-open segments for the candidates to directly address each other – a success.

“The format worked,” he says. “These guys were really talking to each other. Presidential candidates had never done that before. People, including the candidates, and including me, were used to a more controlled format, with two-minute answers.

“I played a different role than in the past. I was still the moderator, but it was a different kind of debate. I understand why people were a little stunned by some it. Over time, they’ll get used to it, and realize it works.”

The downside of the open format, Lehrer acknowledges, is that it’s virtually impossible to steer the candidates in a different direction or to get them to shut up.

“I would hope the candidates themselves would do that,” says Lehrer, ever the optimist. “Certainly,

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PBS CEO: Romney Attack On Funding Inappropriate

During last night’s Presidential debate, GOP candidate Mitt Romney said that he would cut the subsidy for PBS, saying:

“I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

PBS CEO Paula Kerger appeared on CNN this morning, where she responded to the comment, saying that it “was not about the budget, this has to be about politics.”

“With the enormous problems facing the country, the fact that we are the focus is unbelievable to me,” Kerger said. “We are America’s biggest classroom, we touch children across the country in every home.”

WATCH:

Kerger dodged questions about Jim Lehrer‘s debate performance.

Ifill And Woodruff To Anchor ‘PBS NewsHour’ Debate Coverage

Presidential debate coverage for “PBS NewsHour” will be led by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, and will be joined by analysts Mark Shields, David Brooks and political editor Christina Bellantoni. “Newshour’”s coverage will run from 9-11 PM ET.

Tonight’s debate is a particularly big one for “NewsHour,” as Jim Lehrer will be serving as moderator. “NewsHour” will also be streaming the debate live on its website, alongside blog posts offering additional analysis.

More information after the jump.

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The Choice: The Trailer

The PBS News series “Frontline” is about to begin its 2012 election coverage in earnest, and to help kick things off the WGBH Boston-produced program released a trailer for a film that it is calling “The Choice 2012.”

WATCH:

Watch The Choice 2012 on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Jim Lehrer: ‘I have no regrets about saying what I did, or about changing my mind’

Read my lips. No more debates.

Jim Lehrer didn’t use those words, but he might as well have. Lehrer’s November pronouncement that he would never host another presidential debate, like George H. W. Bush’s 1988 promise of no new taxes, turned out to be far from absolute.

With one major difference, according to PBS’s Lehrer. “There were consequences for him. There are no consequences for me.”

Lehrer will moderate the first Obama-Romney debate, Oct. 3 in Denver. It will be the 12th such event for Lehrer, 78, who last year retired as anchor of “NewsHour.” (For the first time since 1972, he won’t be the face of PBS at the national conventions.)

When members of the Commission of Presidential Debates asked Lehrer to re-consider, he said, Shermanesquely: “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.” When the group pitched a new debate format, however, ‘never’ became too long to wait.

Despite the 180, Lehrer insists his conscience is clear.

“I have no regrets about saying what I did, or about changing my mind,” he says. “I am a regret-free person. I meant it when I said it at the time. I had no idea there would be a new format. Life is an ever-changing windstorm, and I’m a part of life.

“I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I want to moderate a presidential debate.’ There was a long, long buildup. I didn’t change. The circumstances changed. I wouldn’t have considered it for any other reason.”

The selection of Lehrer, along with that of CBS’s Bob Schieffer, CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s Martha’s Raddatz has drawn heavy criticism from blacks and Hispanics for its absence of racial diversity. Others have accused the moderators of being too liberal and/or too mainstream.

To Lehrer, with half a century in the news business, it’s all background noise.

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PBS Only Broadcaster To Offer 3+ Hours Of Convention Coverage In Primetime

We already noted last week that the team of Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will be the first ever all-female anchor team to lead a network’s political convention coverage. Now the rest of “PBS NewsHour’”s plans are coming to light.

PBS–which has the benefit of being a not-for-profit TV network–will offer substantially more primetime coverage than any other broadcaster, with coverage running each night of the conventions from8-11PM. During the coverage there will be a number of segments featuring analysis, commentary and interviews, including contributors David Brooks and Mark Shields, analysis from “NewsHour” political editor Christina Bellantoni, and reports from the convention floors.

Online, correspondent Hari Sreenivasan will lead the network’s coverage, which will be 24 hours and powered by Livestream. The digital component will also feature “NewsHour” contributors, and will also have regular segments.

More information below.

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For Female Journalists, Another Significant ‘First’ This Election Season On PBS

When CNN’s Candy Crowley on Monday was named moderator for one of the Presidential debates, it drew headlines. Breaking a 20-year dry spell for women will do that.

So why the underwhelming response, relatively speaking, to PBS’s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff — the first all-female team to spearhead a network’s convention coverage in news broadcast history?

Moreover, PBS didn’t even mention that fact when it announced the pairing in late June. It took another month before it came up during a PBS panel at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Ifill and Woodruff, both respected veterans of “PBS NewsHour,” insist their gender-making distinction is not a big deal.

“I think it matters a little; it doesn’t matter a lot,” says Woodruff, 65, whose first convention was in 1976 as a newbie NBC correspondent. “We’re not there because we’re women. We’re there because we love to cover politics and we’ve been doing it a long time.

“We’re not going to go on the air and say, ‘Aha, now is your chance to see two women on the convention.’ If others want to point it out, I’m very comfortable with it.”

Woodruff and Ifill will anchor from 8 to 11 each night from the Republican event, Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, followed by the Democratic gathering, Sept. 4-6 in Charlotte, N.C.

Ifill, 56, is no stranger to ‘firsts.’ As moderator of “Washington Week in Review” since 1999, she is the first female, and first person of color, to hold the position.

“It’s not important that we’re women,” she says of the historic convention partnership. “It’s important as a sign that ‘NewsHour’ is evolving, with the most experienced people doing the best job. Since Jim [Lehrer] went ‘stage right,’ as it were, Judy and I have been anchoring so much. Between us, we’ve covered something like 16 campaigns.

“The fact that we’re both women is almost incidental.”

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Mitt Romney Says He Would Eliminate PBS Subsidy If Elected President

In an interview with Fortune, presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney says he would cut the PBS subsidy if elected President. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its member stations across the country produce news programs like “PBS NewsHour” and “Need to Know,” as well as non-fiction fare like “Nova” and “Antiques Roadshow.” “NewsHour” anchor Jim Lehrer is one of the journalists tapped to moderate the upcoming Presidential debates.

You’ve promised to cap government spending at 20% of GDP. Specifically where will you cut?

There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending. These are in many cases reductions which become larger and larger over time. So first there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.

 

PBS Details 2012 Election Programming, Non-Fiction Specials, And Another Ken Burns Documentary

PBS made a slew of announcements during its presentation at the 2012 Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

Leading the way was its 2012 Presidential election coverage, which will be featured on “Need to Know,” “Frontline,” “PBS Newshour” and “Washington Week.” The network also announced a pair of election specials to compliment its regular programming. The specials are “America By The Numbers: Clarkston, Georgia With Maria Hinojosa,” which examines the changing demographics of America through the lens of a small town in the Peach State, and”Race 2012,” which uses the election to update viewers on America’s racial landscape.

PBS also announced a new documentary from Ken Burns focusing on “The Roosevelts,” Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor, and a new series “Constitution USA with Peter Sagal,” which has the NPR host traveling across the country on a Harley Davidson to learn about the Constitution.

More, below.

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‘Frontline’ Prepares For The Future

The PBS investigative documentary series “Frontline” has named Raney Aronson deputy executive producer. The move is notable, as “Frontline” has been under the leadership of only one person, David Fanning, since it was created in 1983.

A Brian Stelter notes in the NY Times, Aronson’s promotion signals that she is the likely heir to the “Frontline” throne when Fanning decides to retire.

The news did not come as a surprise — Ms. Aronson has been managing much of the production of “Frontline” for the past five years — but as confirmation of Mr. Fanning’s intention to hand the series over to her sometime in the future. “The title deputy means someone appointed and empowered to act on behalf of another,” he wrote in an internal memo to the staff on Saturday. “It’s my pleasure to have her agree to do so on my behalf, and share the responsibility and privilege of guiding Frontline’s present and future.”

“Frontline” is produced by one of public television’s powerhouse stations, WGBH Boston, which also produces “Antiques Roadshow,” “Nova” and “Masterpiece.”

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