Accuracy in Media

PBS ombudsman Michael Getler is annoyed that the network isn’t able to cover any nationwide news over the weekend leaving it to play catch up on Monday.

The shooting of Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords on January 8 was apparently the last straw for Getler as he noted that ” if you are a devoted follower of the news and of PBS, when horrific stories such as the one that unfolded in Tucson last Saturday, Jan. 8, you must go to the big three broadcast networks or cable for coverage. The PBS NewsHour will get around to it on Monday evening.”

Getler writes that this situation is nothing new and by his unofficial count important stories break several times a year on the weekend and PBS is “nowhere to be found on the television news spectrum.”

This bothers loyal viewers who have written to Getler to vent their frustration of having to go elsewhere for their news on the weekend.

There are no doubt impressive-sounding reasons, financial or otherwise, why there is no PBS NewsHour, or something similar, on Saturday and Sunday evenings. But it has always seemed to me like an abdication of duty that also has the side effect of sending regular PBS viewers to other networks. The weekday evening NewsHour is one of PBS’s flagship programs and Jim Lehrer is among journalism’s most respected figures. So it just seems inconsistent with a commitment to news and public affairs, and to promoting the NewsHour and Lehrer as something special and unique — as PBS officials do publicly to emphasize the importance of public broadcasting — that some new formula can’t, or won’t, be found to serve the public on Saturday and Sunday as well.

Getler  is joined on the weekend news bandwagon by Lehrer who told Gail Shister that he was “itching to get on the air.” to cover the story and wished that the network had the airtime and resources to cover it.

Lehrer also told Shister that he lobbied for years to expand NewsHour to the weekend and even proposed a Sunday edition but nothing ever came of the talks.

If Getler and Lehrer are being told the resources aren’t available now it is highly unlikely that under a Republican congress that is calling for cuts to the public broadcasting subsidy that there will be any money available for at least the next two years if ever.

Given the liberal bias of PBS not having any weekend news coverage is probably a good thing.

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