TV critic questions NewsHour reruns, pubcasting author segments

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Is PBS NewsHour padding its content with previously aired segments and infomercials for books authored by pubcasters?

Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik believes so. Today he notes that in its final half-hour Tuesday night, NewsHour ran a segment that had already aired on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, as well as an interview with Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton about her book on the popular PBS seriesZurawik pointed out that in October NewsHour ran an interview with its founder, Jim Lehrer, about his novel on the Kennedy assassination.

The show also featured a story about ultra-tiny apartments in New York City that NewsHour Weekend produced and ran three months ago.

So the last half of Tuesday’s NewsHour “was a phantom newscast,” Zurawik writes. “If they don’t have the energy, resources or pride to fill the hour with real news and hard-eyed analysis of the news, maybe it’s time to cut back to a 30-minute nightly newscast on PBS and not ask the public to underwrite reruns and self-promotion.”

Update: In a response emailed to Current, NewsHour spokesperson Anne Bell wrote: “PBS NewsHour partners with other public media producers in an effort to take our audience to places we might not otherwise be able to cover. Our partnership with Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro is over 20 years old. Through Fred, PBS NewsHour has enjoyed a long relationship with the Undertold Stories Project and WNET’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.”

Bell wrote that the interview with Eaton was available online beginning Nov. 26 but was not broadcast until Dec. 17. As a multiplatform production, Bell wrote, NewsHour “frequently posts stories and interviews online before we air them; that way we can engage an online audience with NewsHour content as soon as it is available, and expand the size of our overall audience.”

PBS NewsHour Weekend is new to the PBS schedule, Bell said, and not carried by the same stations that broadcast the weekday NewsHour.  “The segment from PBS NewsHour Weekend was included in our broadcast for the same reason the Religion & Ethics Newsweekly report was: to expose this good material to a new and larger audience.”

Also, this item has been corrected to reflect that Eaton’s interview was not broadcast in November.

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