Public Media Endings and Beginnings

Some in the pubmedia world are already in mourning about the coming demise of NOW (with public radio veterans David Brancaccio and Maria Hinojosa) and Bill Moyers’ Journal, slated to go off the air in April, 2010.  Moyers (at 75) is retiring, but NOW’s departure doesn’t sound exactly voluntary. Personally, I’m wearing black. I know these programs have been a source of controversy for PBS, but they’ve also been a source of courageous truth-telling. In a time when media elites are holding conference after forum after hearing to talk-talk-talk about the future of journalism, and lament a loss of investigative journalism, these two public media represent some of the hardest-hitting, fact-finding, deep-digging television around. How’s this for a chant: “What do we want: NOW! When do we want it: NOW!”

Meanwhile, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer is no more. The program formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer Report is getting a makeover with a new name: PBS NewsHour. Jim Lehrer is still the show’s leading man, but the re-name emphasizes information over personality and gives PBS an important branding opportunity. It’s about time! Check out their new website, which integrates and features public media content from other sources, including public radio.

In Friday’s episode announcing the changes, Lehrer promised that the show would stay true to its mission. He shared the program’s journalistic philosophy, which I think is worth re-posting here for your contemplation:

“Do nothing I cannot defend. Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story. Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.

Assume personal lives are a private matter, until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes, except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.

And, finally, I am not in the entertainment business. ”