Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2019.
"PBS NewsHour," the national nightly newscast known for its in-depth exploration of the day’s most critical issues, is opening a western news bureau at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication under a new partnership with Arizona State University.
"PBS NewsHour West," made possible with the generous support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will allow "NewsHour's" nightly broadcast to better serve audiences in the West and online, and to continue its expansion into a 24/7 news operation.
“As news cycles continue shrinking and America’s appetite for fair, contextual and trustworthy reporting intensifies, 'PBS NewsHour West' at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism will allow us to better serve our audiences across platforms and time zones,” said Sara Just, the program’s executive producer who also serves as a WETA senior vice president. “With a team located at the Cronkite School and Arizona PBS, we will have an ideal perch from which to better cover the important issues in the West with alacrity and insight and serve our West Coast audiences even better.”
Cronkite School Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan added, “'PBS NewsHour' has a long history of setting the standard for broadcast journalism. We are honored to be a part of this great partnership, and we look forward to helping 'NewsHour' deliver critical news coverage to communities in the western United States and sharing western stories with audiences across the country.”
Callahan said the new partnership will more deeply connect Cronkite to one of its most important professional partners. Over the past year, students in Cronkite News, the student-staffed, faculty-led news division of Arizona PBS, have produced in-depth packages that have been broadcast on "NewsHour."
Under the new partnership, the connections between Cronkite News and "NewsHour" will deepen, and the new Howard Center for Investigative Journalism will work collaboratively with "NewsHour" on national investigations, Callahan said.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students while, at the same time, giving us the opportunity to help provide deeper and more nuanced news coverage of the issues most critical to the West,” he said.
The "PBS NewsHour West team" will consist of up to six people, including a correspondent who will serve as West Coast anchor.
Judy Woodruff, the winner of ASU’s 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism who has more than four decades of reporting experience at PBS, CNN and NBC, will continue to serve as "NewsHour" managing editor and primary anchor of the nightly broadcast.
When news warrants, the "PBS NewsHour West" team will update "PBS NewsHour’s" 6 p.m. Eastern time zone broadcast for West Coast audiences also carried in some cities as late broadcasts on radio, television and streaming platforms.
“Through strategic investments, CPB is working to strengthen and expand public media’s local, regional and national journalism capacity,” said Pat Harrison, CPB President and CEO. “With CPB’s funding for the establishment of a western bureau, 'PBS NewsHour' will be able to better serve audiences with late-breaking news and cover stories of western importance with greater depth across all platforms.”
Several factors played into the "PBS NewsHour’s" decision to open "PBS NewsHour West" at ASU, Just said. The university, with its pre-eminent journalism program, is committed to public broadcasting and serves as the home to Arizona PBS. The bureau also will allow "NewsHour" to work more closely with PBS stations and other media partners on the West Coast, where more than 20 percent of "NewsHour's" audience resides.
Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital and producer of "PBS NewsHour," added, “The launch of 'PBS NewsHour West' is part of our unwavering commitment to excellence in journalism. This collaboration with ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism broadens our reach and provides extraordinary learning opportunities for new journalists as well.”
Under the leadership of Just, who joined as executive producer in September 2014 after more than 25 years at ABC News, "PBS NewsHour" has seen growth and expansion across platforms.
At 1.14 million viewers per minute, "PBS NewsHour’s" nightly broadcast audience for the 2017-18 television season (October 2017-September 2018) was up 34 percent compared with the 2013-14 television season. "NewsHour’s" website in 2018 reached 52 million users, up nearly 40 percent compared with 2015. With an eye for continued growth and reach across platforms, Just announced in September 2018 the move to expand and transform "PBS NewsHour" online with the addition of nine new full-time digital positions.
In the decade since ASU President Michael M. Crow made the Cronkite School an independent college and moved it from ASU’s Tempe campus to downtown Phoenix, the school has established itself as one of the country’s top professional journalism programs. Housed in a $71 million, six-story state-of-the-art facility, the Cronkite School has four television studios and more than a dozen professional immersion programs in which students receive real-world experiences under the guidance of faculty composed of award-winning journalists and world-class media scholars.
Arizona PBS, which is part of the Cronkite School, serves as the hub for the school’s professional programs, which includes Cronkite News, a multiplatform news operation with bureaus in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as well as a local nightly newscast.
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