PBS NewsHour’s Appy Face

PBS NewsHour is on the move, finally joining the mobile generation with a newly updated iPhone/iPad application.

“Thanks to all of those who waited — and those who nudged, pushed and shoved for us to go mobile,” writes Hari Sreenivasan on the PBS NewsHour site

In a promotional video, longtime host Jim Lehrer announces proudly that PBS NewsHour is now always on. “What is it that people can do with a NewsHour app?” Lehrer asks, as he shakes the iPhone by his ear like a maraca…wryly defying anyone who might have pegged him for a humorless fuddy-duddy.

What’s next…a stint on Dancing with the Stars? (Try shaking that image out of your mind.)

If Gwen Ifill, Ray Suarez, Judy Woodruff and Margaret Warner don’t get you excited about the new app, PBS NewsHour hopes clips of Sting and Laurence Fishburne will do the trick.

The app is getting rave reviews. Appolicious Advisor writes, “While Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television programming is high-quality stuff, it struggles, nevertheless, to shed its dowdy reputation. The PBS NewsHour iPhone app, however, couldn’t be more hip. It delivers the same A-grade content, but in a modern, mobile format.

Yet, even this necessary advance doesn’t come without someone raining on the parade. Perhaps predictably, NewsHour is taking some heat from its own highly educated audience. In a comment posted for all to see, viewer Mariya Gluzman writes,

“I am somewhat disappointed to see PBS Newshour endorsing proprietary technology over open source, especially given a near monopoly Apple seems to have in the area of mobile apps. Also, the Chinese company that manufactures iphones and other products for Apple has an ever-growing rate of worker suicides fueled by poverty wages, grueling work hours and bad working conditions. I expected better from PBS.”

Perhaps PBS NewsHour can do an investigation of these claims. There’s a segment I think many viewers will want to watch, even if they are streaming it on their sweatshop-produced iPhones.

An interesting feature of the new iPhone app is a menu category called Public Media, which channels the below-the-fold block on the NewsHour homepage that links to reporting done at public radio and TV stations. Right now, that public media link could use a little more love and attention (the RSS is caching mostly stories from 2009) but the concept of building a bridge to somewhere in public radio/media is a terrific one. 

The new app also waxes poetic: You can access PBS NewsHour’s wonderful poetry series, by clicking on More, and then Art Beat.

The PBS NewsHour app splashes down the same week that the esteemed program won the Chairman’s Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Emmy’s. Former co-host Robin McNeil shared his perspective on the program’s place in the pantheon of TV News in a post called No Blaring.

PBS NewsHour has also hired CNN’s Miles O’Brien to head up a new science news unit. And, they’ve launched a new Politics page in time for the mid-term Congressional elections. 

Indeed, the whole world may not be watching PBS NewsHour, but the journalism world is certainly taking note (and taking notes) on this venerable institution’s foray into this new century. Here are some peel-back-the curtain stories worth your time:

Columbia Journalism Review: Old Dogs, New Tricks

MediaShift: Social Media Helps Drive Traffic, Engagement at NewsHour.

What do you think of the PBS NewsHour app?