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Nonprofit Press Release Theater: PBS's NewsHour Moves Into Future, Past

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PBS announced today that it plans to overhaul The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer for the 21st century, by instituting some changes to better coordinate the show’s TV and online presence. It’ll also overhaul the newscast for the 20th century, by again pairing Lehrer with a co-anchor—though this time it’ll be rotating co-anchors, rather than a regular partner as he had with Robert MacNeil. 

The show’s producer told the New York Times the changes are “not a succession plan in disguise.” And maybe so. But the network must be looking to the eventuality that Lehrer, 75 next week, will someday not anchor the program; accordingly, the show will be renamed, simply, The PBS NewsHour.

As for the online co-ordination changes… well, they don’t seem that stunning on the page. NewsHour segments will continue to be available online, and the online and TV newsgathering staff will be integrated, which should be a no-brainer. (Update: And as I’ve written before, PBS has done an admirable job putting its news and documentary content online, as well as adapting it to the Web with more material.) Also, a “bridge” correspondent will anchor online news and the TV news summary, to provide a sense of continuity—as will unified graphics, and, you know, the fact that both media will involve PBS news video. 

The most intriguing part of the changes may be the promise of collaborations with other public-media entities like Frontline and NPR (the latter of which has often seemed to be more successful changing with changing times than PBS), but we’ll have to see what those produce. Excerpts from the release after the jump:

In September, viewers will see the following enhancements to The NewsHour:

· The daily PBS NewsHour broadcast will move to a dual anchor format, with Jim Lehrer regularly joined by NewsHour senior correspondents Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff and Jeffrey Brown in the studio. Senior correspondents Ray Suarez and Margaret Warner will primarily focus on “out of studio” reporting. The objective of the dual anchor format is to better engage NewsHour viewers and strengthen their connection to the program. By sending senior correspondents out of the studio, the program seeks to make better use of their reporting talents and add texture to the broadcast.

· PBS NewsHour will merge on-air and online operations into one entity in a way that reinforces its core mission. Through the integration of its reporting teams, PBS NewsHour will provide news content best suited to specific platforms. There will also be a new player on the team, an online correspondent, who will represent the link between the online news operation and the nightly broadcast. This person will post four-to-five-minute video news summaries online throughout the day and also anchor the news summary on the nightly PBS NewsHour broadcast.

· PBS NewsHour will have new title animation, along with new program graphics. The new graphic look of the program will carry over to the digital platform for a unified identity, signaling to the audience that PBS NewsHour is accessible 24 hours a day.

· PBS NewsHour will also redesign its Web site to accommodate the news summaries, along with the increasing number of unique sub-sites created to capitalize on the personalities and strengths of various correspondents ― for example, economic correspondent Paul Solman’s Business Desk and Jeff Brown’s Art Beat ― as well as other correspondents and reporting units.

· Another big part of the PBS NewsHour plan is the collaboration with public media content producers ― both national and local ― including FRONTLINE, NPR and local public media producers. This collaboration will deliver strong content to a wider audience, bringing additional perspective and depth to PBS NewsHour’s reporting and analysis of national and international events.