Suarez left “NewsHour” as chief national correspondent, but it is clear he felt passed over when Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors, ending a rotation at the anchor desk that included Suarez.
“If you weren’t one of the anchors, you weren’t getting the prominent interviews and you weren’t getting the top story,” Suarez told TheWrap, a West Coast entertainment website. “And to be locked out of that after 14 years was not a good situation for me, so I had to go.”
He also compared “NewsHour,” unfavorably, to his new employer.
Suarez added, “Frankly, it’s not living hand to mouth as the ‘NewsHour’ was and is. … It’s got bureaus all over the world. It’s got reporters and bureaus all over the United States.’”
His departure has larger ramifications for some Latino viewers.
“The departure of veteran journalist Ray Suarez from the ‘NewsHour’ has sent shock waves to viewers,” says Marta Garcia, vice chair of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Inc. “Latinos, with a booming USA population, are missing in action behind and in front of the cameras. … With Suarez’s departure, no Latinos occupy senior positions at the ‘NewsHour’ and, more generally, ‘NewsHour’ is severely lacking Latino anchors, senior correspondents and producers.”
For better or worse, “NewsHour” has bet its future on Ifill, a former Evening Sun reporter. In addition to being named co-anchor in the latest shuffle, she is also the managing editor. But whereas Lehrer was generally considered a nonpartisan figure appealing to viewers across the political spectrum, Ifill has allowed herself to be closely linked to the Obama administration.
Some questioned her suitability as moderator for a vice presidential debate in 2008, given a book she published that year, “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” that included the Democratic presidential candidate.
Last year, she emceed an event honoring Katherine Sebelius, Obama’s secretary of health and human services, an action even the PBS ombudsman questioned.
Outside of the overtly partisan MSNBC, nowhere is Obama treated more favorably than he is on “NewsHour” and the other PBS show Ifill hosts, “Washington Week.”
But in the end, while that might narrow the audience for “NewsHour,” I believe there is an even bigger problem behind the telecast’s lack of relevance and loss of audience.
Unlike network and cable dinner time newscasts, the PBS show doesn’t actually report much news anymore. It mainly talks about news that others have reported.
Ifill, Woodruff and others interview reporters and analysts from other news organizations who have already gathered the news and shared it with their readers, viewers and listeners on-air, online and in social media. In that sense, what PBS viewers are getting is secondhand.
We do need a nightly, national, public TV newscast that can compare with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” That is crucial to democracy.
But I am convinced that what’s left of “NewsHour” is not that newscast.
CORRECTION: Marta Garcia was mis-named in an earlier version of this post.
“PBS NewsHour” airs 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. weeknights on MPT (Channels 22, 67).