PBS ‘NewsHour’ Co-Anchors Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett Want to Build Back Trust in Media in Show’s Next Chapter

As PBS “News Hour” returns to its original two-anchor format, co-anchors Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett aim to build back trust in media as they step in to continue the historic show’s evolution.

“Our audience relies on us to be fair and probing at a time when … there’s just historic lack of trust in the media,” senior executive producer Sara Just told TheWrap. “We have an obligation to do good journalism, and to build back hopefully the trust that the audience has been losing in the overall media industry, and to try to find a way to demonstrate … the importance to our democracy of having a free press.”

Launched in 1975 as PBS’ primary daily, breaking and special news producer Robert MacNeil and the late Jim Lehrer co-anchored “NewsHour” before the late Gwen Ifill co-anchored alongside Judy Woodruff. While Woodruff has anchored the broadcast solo since Ifill’s passing in 2016, Woodruff will pass on the torch to Nawaz and Bennett beginning Jan. 2, enabling the co-anchors to more seamlessly balance original reporting with anchoring.

“Going back to our co-anchor format will have a lot more flexibility to be able to have Amna and Geoff doing what they do best, which is reporting and getting out in the field, and being able to be flexible with that and to create different kinds of storytelling,” Just said.

Also Read:
‘NBC News Daily’ Hosts Want to Turn Consumer Stories Into Dinner Conversations

Even though the faces behind the desks are changing — as they have with each iteration of the show — the core of what people turn to the “NewsHour” for “won’t change a bit,” according to Bennett.

“People turn to the ‘NewsHour’ because they trust us, but they also have to like you — they have to want to spend time with the person who’s telling them these stories,” Nawaz told TheWrap. “My hope is that as they get to know Geoff and I better together, this will become a comfortable place for them to come to for that kind of information and trusted analysis that everyone needs so sorely right now.”

From July to Sept. 2022, PBS “NewsHour” averaged a nightly audience of nearly 2 million viewers, with its average monthly digital audience for the same period topping 25 million viewers while video views earned 45.9 million viewers.

Also Read:
What’s Next for ‘GMA3’ After Suspension of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes: ‘It’s Just a Mess’

Nawaz, who has served as “NewsHour’s” chief correspondent and a primary substitute anchor since she joined the program in 2018, looks forward to examining the key issues that drove Americans to the midterm polls as a way to clearly understand what is important to voters.

“I’m excited to dig into a lot of those issues on the impact of what it means to live in a post-Roe America, about what it means when Americans are worried about the strength of our democracy, about what all of that means for this next upcoming, huge election in 2024,” Nawaz said, pointing to a recent PBS poll that revealed Americans are itching for progress on key topics like immigration and climate change.

For Bennett, who served as the network’s chief Washington correspondent and anchor of its weekend offshoot, PBS News Weekend, and has previously covered national politics, he hopes to help the audience understand that “politics is more than just what happens in Washington.”

“It’s more than what happens on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Bennett told TheWrap. “It’s what’s happening across the country,” he said, adding his eagerness to take “a deeper look at the messaging and the agenda of the Democratic and Republican parties and how that intersects with the greater country.”

Also Read:
11 Media Stories That Shook the Industry in 2022

While Nawaz, Bennett and Just have all worked in both commercial and public media, they share a passion for the freedom that comes with working in public media, which enables the network to pursue the stories they identify as the most important topics plaguing the country without the pressures faced by other commercial media.

“I’ve always carried at my core a sense of mission — journalism, to me, is service,” Nawaz said. “It’s something that we provide in service to our audience as a core part of our democracy that’s always been at the core of what I do, and you can carry that with you wherever you go. But in public media, that is a shared mission — that’s at the core of everything we do.”

As “NewsHour” looks forward into 2023 as they cover national politics, the war in Ukraine and beyond, the team plans to lean into nuance and complexity to combat “stories not being just black and white.”

“The audience wants to be informed, but also have things explained to them and they appreciate our giving room … for nuance and complexity,” Just said. “Even if you disagree with somebody, there may be something interesting that they have to say, so they come to ‘NewsHour’ … to have that respectful tone. That’s what we know our audience wants, and that’s what I am confident Geoff and Amna are going to continue.”

PBS NewsHour airs every weekday at 6 p.m.