The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


Lehrer Steps Down: Will NewsHour Do More to Fulfill PBS Mission?


PBSNewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer announced on Thursday that he would step down as anchor of the nightly newscast early next month. Will the change lead to improvements at the program?

As FAIR has documented in several major studies, the NewsHour falls well short of fulfilling the mission that should guide public broadcasting: the promotion of ideas and viewpoints that are too often excluded from discussions in the commercial media. The founding mandate of public television is to "be a forum for debate and controversy" and to "help us see America whole, in all its diversity."

Unfortunately, the NewsHour's programming largely replicates the elite bias of network newscasts, featuring the views of powerful interests (military, government and corporate officials) while mostly sidelining citizen groups, public interest advocates, labor unions and the like.

FAIR's 2010 study of the NewsHour (Extra!, 11/10) found:

  • Sources drawn from elite institutions and occupations predominated, providing 74 percent of total sources. These were mostly current and former government officials, including military officials, who accounted for 44 percent of total sources. Corporate voices provided 10 percent of the NewsHour's guests, while public interest advocates provided just 4 percent.
  • Women made up just 20 percent of the total sources--and were three times more likely to be "general public" sources rather than experts. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 82 percent of U.S. sources.
  • In coverage of the BP oil spill, a prominent story during the study period, oil industry representatives appeared four times as often as environmental advocates.
  • On the Afghan War, 70 percent of sources were current or former government and military officials. The NewsHour featured no guest identified as an opponent of the war or expressing antiwar views.

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.