“PBS NewsHour” typically dissects the news with a depth its counterparts at ABC, NBC and CBS do not. For tonight, at least, the venerable show is generating headlines of its own.
Judy Woodruff, the veteran news anchor who logged time at NBC News and CNN before taking up anchor duties at PBS’ venerable “NewsHour,” is expected to leave the desk in early 2023, according to two people familiar with the matter. She is expected to continue to lead the program through this year’s midterm elections. If plans follow through as anticipated, she will be succeeded by Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett, these people say — a major shift at a public-media institution that is a daily part of its viewers’ news routine.
A spokesman for “PBS NewsHour” said the program “had no anchor desk news to announce.” Succession plans at the show were reported previously by Puck News. Official word, according to one of the people familiar with the matter, might not come until the fall.
Woodruff has led the venerable news program once known as “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” on her own since 2016, when her co-anchor, Gwen Ifill, died. Woodruff and Ifill were named the show’s official co-anchors and co-managing editors in 2013.
Nawaz, a former ABC News correspondent, has been the primary substitute anchor of “NewsHour” since 2018 and its chief correspondent since 2021. Bennett joined the show as its chief Washington correspondent last year, and recently launched a retooled version of its weekend edition, which is now produced by WETA, the PBS Washington affiliate, rather than WNET, the New York station under whose auspices it launched. The move put both shows under the same production umbrella and makes them easier to manage.
The show has mulled succession for a period of time, according to one of the people familiar with the program. There has been some thought that having two regular co-anchors might play better over the course of an hour-long production, and might create an situation in which Nawaz or Bennett can get out in the field or do longer-form reporting while the other stays on hand to lead the newscast. But producers weren’t prepared to make the move until they were sure they had two potential leads who had the proper background and chemistry.
Woodruff, who has enjoyed a career that had her interview multiple presidents and heads of state and cover every presidential election since 1976, is 75 years old, an age when even the most popular TV personae mull a change in regular duties. Still, she is among a small handful of TV personalities and executives who continue to do their jobs with as much gusto as they did when they were younger. Andrea Mitchell, also 75, not only contributes to a variety of NBC News reports as its chief foreign affairs and Washington correspondent, but holds down a weekday hour on MSNBC. Lesley Stahl, 80, continues to hold forth at CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” And Lorne Michaels, 77, is preparing to finish off yet another season of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Woodruff got her national news start working for NBC in 1975, and spent her early tenure there covering the southeast U.S. She had also previously worked for local stations in Atlanta. That gave her a chance to cover Jimmy Carter’s gubernatorial campaign, and NBC assigned her to cover Carter’s run for the White House. The move started her on a trajectory of covering national politics through the Carter and Reagan presidencies.
In 1983, she moved to PBS for her first stint at “NewsHour,” where she served as chief Washington correspondent, and also led the documentary program “Frontline.” After a decade, Woodruff took a job with CNN, where she often co-anchored with Bernard Shaw. She would leave in 2005, but after teaching and pursuing some individual projects, rejoined “NewsHour” as a special correspondent. Her duties gradually increased. For some “NewsHour” viewers, the prospect of her not being on screen next year might take some time to absorb.