This item has been updated and reposted with additional information. Ray Suarez, chief national correspondent for PBS NewsHour, is resigning after 14 years with the program, effective Oct. 25. Executive Producer Linda Winslow told the staff in a memo late this afternoon that Suarez is leaving to "pursue several other ventures," including writing a book. The news comes three days after NewsHour founders Jim Lehrer and Robin MacNeil announced they intended to transfer ownership of the program to presenting station and producing partner WETA in Arlington, Va.
Leaders of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the company behind the PBS NewsHour, are negotiating to transfer ownership to co-producer WETA in Arlington, Va., according to an internal letter sent Tuesday to staffers. Program founders and original co-anchors Jim Lehrer and Robin MacNeil wrote that their reasons for relinquishing ownership at this time include "the probability of increasing our fundraising abilities" for the weeknightly news magazine. The New York Times reported in June that the program was in financial trouble and had received infusions of cash from PBS several times over the past year. Currently, Lehrer and MacNeil share ownership with Liberty Media, which acquired a majority interest in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (MLP) 18 years ago. Liberty owns interests in various media, communications and entertainment businesses including SiriusXM, Barnes & Noble and the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball franchise.
The PBS NewsHour is reassigning its senior journalists to new roles by tapping Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff as co-anchors and managing editors of the weeknightly broadcasts. The change, announced today during the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles, drops the system of rotating anchor duties among six different NewsHour journalists. It takes effect next month. Jim Lehrer, longtime anchor and co-owner of the show through MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, retains the title of executive editor, but Ifill and Woodruff will lead editorial and strategic planning of PBS's flagship news show. “Gwen and Judy have been the heart and soul of NewsHour for years," said Linda Winslow, executive producer, "so it’s wonderful to formalize these new roles and give them an opportunity to provide even more input on the content and direction of the show."
In addition to launching a weekend edition of the PBS NewsHour, New York’s WNET has secured a contract to create an integrated website for the flagship series and its new sibling. The WNET Interactive Engagement Group (IEG), a subsidiary that specializes in developing customized WordPress platforms, will complete the web development project by December, but aims to make some enhancements before the Sept. 7 launch of PBS NewsHour Weekend. That new Saturday and Sunday evening news show will originate from the New York City pubcaster, while the weekday NewsHour maintains its longtime home at WETA in Arlington, Va. The redesign will be the first major back-end overhaul in 10 years for the NewsHour’s website, which is built on a homegrown content management system (CMS), according to Vanessa Dennis, online art director.
PBS NewsHour is shutting offices in Denver and San Francisco and eliminating several positions at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., Executive Producer Linda Winslow and Bo Jones, president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, told staff in a memo Monday. In all, 10 workers are affected, in addition to several jobs that will remain unfilled, NewsHour spokesperson Anne Bell told Current. The program is also planning future changes in technical production processes, in cooperation with co-producer WETA, "in order to streamline and further digitize operations," the memo said. NewsHour's fiscal year begins July 1, and all changes will roll out over the next six months, Bell said. "We believe the staff restructuring and production changes, along with continuing web investment, will make us stronger and enable us to be more effective and nimble," the memo said.
A PBS NewsHour report on population growth and food scarcity in the Philippines prompted an increase in donations to the PATH Foundation Philippines Inc., an organization with a pilot program promoting family planning in rural areas of the Southeast Asian country. The report explored the foundation’s community-based approach of making contraceptives accessible to villagers who want to limit the size of their families. The story, which aired in January 2012, was produced as part of the public media collaborative project Food for 9 Billion, and has also been used by educators to set up discussions of the links between population and the environment. During a Jan. 28 panel discussion on environmental reporting hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions described the impact of his reporting for Food for 9 Billion.