NPR and ‘PBS NewsHour’ partner on election coverage

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PBS NewsHour prepares for the Republican National Convention in 2012. (Photo: Flickr/PBS NewsHour)

PBS NewsHour prepares for the Republican National Convention in 2012. (Photo: Flickr/PBS NewsHour)

NPR and PBS NewsHour announced Tuesday a collaboration on coverage of next year’s elections and other journalism projects.

As part of the collaboration, the two media outlets will cover the 2016 political conventions with a team of journalists and broadcasters producing coverage for television, radio and digital platforms.

NPR and NewsHour will also produce live simulcasts next year from the Republican National Convention, July 18–21, and Democratic National Convention, July 25–28. In a joint press release, they called the simulcasts a “first for public media.”

NPR and NewsHour have collaborated before, “but on a much smaller scale,” said Sara Just, NewsHour’s executive producer. NPR reporters have appeared on NewsHour, and vice versa. But “this kind of collaboration is new,” she said.

During the convention broadcasts, NewsHour co-anchors Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill will anchor, and NPR reporters will conduct interviews on the convention floor. Broadcasts will also include analysis from Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent; Lisa Desjardins, NewsHour’s political director; Ron Elving, an NPR senior editor; and Domenico Montanaro, NPR’s political editor, among others.

Until recently, discussions about collaborating were in “very broad strokes,” said Just. But when Michael Oreskes, NPR’s s.v.p. of news, joined the network in March, Just contacted him during his first week on the job to discuss working together.

“He was very enthusiastic,” Just said. “We all thought [collaborating] would be beneficial to both organizations.”

The political conventions stood out as an opportunity due to their complexity. NPR and NewsHour decided that “we could do better and more together than we could on our own” at the conventions, said Oreskes.

Oreskes said member stations will also be “a huge partner in election coverage.” He plans to further discuss how NPR and stations can work together when he attends the Public Radio News Directors conference next week in Salt Lake City. NPR will also hold a weeklong training session in October on election coverage for member station reporters.

The election partnership will also help reporters gain more knowledge across platforms. “It’s going to be interesting to see how these radio people adapt to the television part and television people adapt to radio,” Oreskes said.

The two outlets are not just collaborating on election coverage. They published a story on food waste Tuesday that an NPR reporter and NewsHour producer reported and researched together, resulting in a television and radio version. Just said she talks to Oreskes “regularly” about other collaborations.

“We’re going to do a lot of things together,” Oreskes said.

Cost-sharing is worked out for each individual project, Just said. “We don’t have any kind of model yet.” CPB is “very supportive” of the plan for collaborative convention coverage, “but nothing is finalized,” Just added.

Research conducted by NewsHour shows that people who watch their show also consume NPR content. “By working together, we make each other’s audience more aware of each other,” she said. “We would be foolish to not take advantage of that.”

Speaking Tuesday to members of CPB’s board of directors, Oreskes discussed roadblocks to collaboration that he’s observed within public media. “As I look around the system, the number of people who seem to have some resistance or some grudge or some anger at somebody else in the system, and therefore uses it as a reason not to get something done, is truly staggering,” Oreskes said.

“Public media in this country has an enormous opportunity and responsibility,” he added. “And I sometimes think as I go around listening to people argue with each other that they don’t realize actually how important they are. These are the kinds of feuds and fights that were all fine and good when you were a small player, but we’re not small players anymore.”

Current Senior Editor Dru Sefton contributed reporting to this article.

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  • altfactor@hotmail.com

    In the past, I found that PBS coverage of conventions had too much analysis and not enough coverage of speeches and events on the convention floor.

    Hopefully, this new collaboration will mean we’ll see more of what happens on the floor and more speeches on the podium.

    Perhaps NPR and “PBS Newshour” should also look to simulcast nonstop all-night Election Night coverage, especially if the commercial broadcast networks decide not to go wall-to-wall on Election Night in November, 2016 (which I doubt they will; perhaps ABC, CBS, and NBC will restrict Election Night coverage to short updates every half-hour in the early evening, an hour of coverage at 10 P.M. Eastern time, and interrupting regular late-night programs to carry the loser’s concession speech and the winner’s acceptance speech).

  • Is interesting, but I’m watchin’ the NewsHour every weeknight & weekend via USTREAM. And on weeknights, after the TV broadcast is over, I’m listenin’ on 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s local NPR. We want the NewsHour Weekend also on NPR stations. #PBSNEWS