For the first time since 1976, Jim Lehrer's name will not appear in the title of PBS's newscast.
Beginning December 7, "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer" will become "PBS Newhour," and Lehrer will share the anchor's chair with a rotating cast of PBS broadcasters including Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, and Jeffrey Brown. The move is part of a broader overhaul of the newscast reported on by both the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz and the New York Times' Elizabeth Jensen.
Lehrer — who took two months off last year after undergoing heart surgery — emphasized to Kurtz that the move was partially his own idea.
"It's a little strange," he said. "Not only am I at ease with it, this was not something forced on me. This grew out of my own thinking....We've been a team operation for a long time. What it does is validate the obvious.... I am still going to be on the program. I am still the executive editor of the program. I want this program to go on and on."
Lehrer told Kurtz that he is "very concerned about serious journalism" and that his team has "done a poor job of promoting" their content, something they "need to be more aggressive" about.
He also said that the cable news opinion landscape doesn't exist without someone first reporting the news.
"The shouting and opinion and jokes don't exist if there isn't first a story," he said. "If you start at the end with Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann -- I'm not knocking these people, but they're at the end of the reaction chain. All you know is what Beck or Bill O'Reilly or Rachel Maddow or Rush Limbaugh said. But what was actually in that legislation? Where are you going to get that piece? You go to a serious news organization."
Jensen — who reported on the newscast's 21st century overhaul in May — adds that the show will court a web audience with a made-over website that is set to unveil Thursday:
A redone Web site will go up Thursday. It will be easier to find Mr. Brown's popular but often hidden Art Beat blog. Ms. Woodruff and Ms. Ifill, along with much of the rest of the staff, will begin contributing to a news analysis blog, as well. Mr. Sreenivasan, once he settles in, will anchor regular video news updates on the site, which will also feature extended interview material not used on the air.
All the show's content will be more easily adaptable to various digital outlets, including, eventually, an iPhone app, said Simon Marks, the show's new associate executive producer.
But despite the digital push, Jensen reports that Twitter users shouldn't expect to see tweets from Lehrer anytime soon:
Asked if he planned to use Twitter, he exclaimed, "Are you crazy?" Then he relented, adding, "I will never say no."