Amna Nawaz, Geoff Bennett, and Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour in November 2022. Image: screencap.

PBS NewsHour Makes Historic Anchor Choices as Judy Woodruff Departs

A few weeks back, the head anchor on the PBS NewsHour, Judy Woodruff, revealed she was stepping away from leading the program in favor of pursuing other projects. As one of the most high-profile women in journalism, Woodruff became the lead NewsHour anchor in 2011. Then, in 2013, she and Gwen Ifill became the first women-led anchor team to air nightly in the U.S. Recently, on November 16, 2022, Woodruff announced senior anchors Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett, who would be replacing her on the program.

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Right before earning these roles, Nawaz served as NewsHour’s chief correspondent and Bennet as the chief Washington correspondent. In a whitening media landscape (yes, I’m talking about all the high-profile journalists of color let go this year), I’m very excited that two people of color—a Muslim, Pakistani American woman and a Black man—will hold those spots. They both have big shoes to fill, not just in terms of Woodruff, but the legacy of Ifill, too. Often referred to as “a journalists’ journalist,” Ifill was the first Black woman to lead a nightly program in the U.S. Because I started watching the program daily in 2017, I never knowingly watched Ifill live because she died in November 2016 following a battle with breast and endometrial cancer. However, everything I’ve read about her over the last few years makes this a shared legacy with Woodruff.

What makes PBS NewsHour special

Woodruff and Hariharan “Hari” Sreenivasan (the weekend anchor that filled in for Ifill and who left departed from the program earlier this year) helped keep me semi-sane in the first few years of the Trump Presidency. During the first few weeks of Trump’s (first and hopefully only) term, he was signing so many Executive Orders that I was literally watching those press conferences (in full) every single day. I learned a lot, but it was not mentally healthy. Not as important, but it tanked my Overwatch stats, as I would have trouble playing competitively and watching Sean Spicer be Sean Spicer. NewsHour helped me step back because I trusted them to supplement the news I got from other sources—and not on a 24-hour schedule.

NewsHour is widely seen as one of the best and most accessible mainstream news sources regardless of political affiliation. They aren’t perfect, but they’re mostly fair without pushing the “objectivity” stance. I don’t feel the need to watch exclusively moderate news (or engage with any media) on the merits of objectivity. Aiming for complete objectivity leads to platforming hate and violence—thinking back to when NPR interviewed neo-Nazi Richard Spencer and all the time Trump has been given room to lie. That’s just some extreme versions, but “objectivity” often means refusing to call a thing what it is, like calling something “racially charged” instead of “hate speech” or “racism.”

However, I do see the value in publicly funded media that aims to cover regional, national, and international topics. This public funding comes from a few sponsors, some government grants, and from “viewers like you.” Also, it’s super accessible to have the full show on YouTube and through local stations. The alternative with that level of scale is Cold War-era news/propaganda completely funded by taxpayers, Voice of America.

I’m going to miss seeing Judy, but I am equally excited to see Nawaz and Bennett.

(via PBS NewsHour, featured image: screencap)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.