‘pbs NewsHour’ Veteran Talks About Her Final Days As Anchor, Her Next Assignment & Why Journalists Should Just “Be Covering The Story, Period”
Judy Woodruff will step away from the PBS NewsHour anchor desk on Friday, ending a chapter as one of the most trusted and well respected figures helming a newscast.
It’s perhaps fitting that she will be doing the assignment for NewsHour, which throughout its run has been dedicated to the type of nuance and in-depth reporting that is meant to inform and enlighten rather than ignite.
“Several people have said to me, ‘Well, aren’t you feeling emotional?’ And I guess yes I do,” she said.” Certainly there will be some emotion about it because I’ve been doing this for so ...
...long. But I’ve also been pretty busy.” She does plan to assure viewers about her successors and to thank the staff of the show and at WETA-TV, the PBS station that produces NewsHour.
I’ve thought about, what is the country facing, and the overwhelming thing that keeps hitting me in the face is that we are divided in a way that I’ve never seen us.
But I don’t think there’s ever been a time where we’ve been as personally divided as it feels as if we are today, where families can hardly get together over the Thanksgiving or holiday dinner table, ...
...where neighbors are shouting at each other, where school boards are having arguments, people trying to get rid of school board members and teachers and principals because of what they’re teaching.
Earlier this year, it just coalesced in my mind and I said, “Well, this is what I want to do.” And I started putting ...
...a plan together and very quickly shared it with Sara Just, our executive producer, and told her about it.
Some Americans are now rejecting information that is proven fact. Thank goodness we don’t kill each other or throw somebody in prison for their beliefs. But we are at a very contentious time for many Americans.
How much do you think that the news media has contributed to those divisions?
We all know that media in general has discovered a long time ago that what draws viewers and followers and readers is argument and debate and drama and suspense, and I think there’s no question that that many ...
...in the press — not all, but many — have played on this and tried, frankly, to expand audiences by focusing more on the disagreement, on the fights, on the arguments, on the name calling than on anything else.
It was after the election of President Clinton … I remember Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America, and the feeling ...
...that there was just this, you’re either on one side or the other side, and there’s not much in the middle.
DEADLINE: Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic called you “a model of restraint coolness and appropriate professional distance from the news.” That has kind of defined a lot of your career.
I care about humanity, of course, and so when I see people suffering, when I see people being treated unfairly, when I see inequity and inequality, just suffering in any form, unequal treatment in any form, I’m human.
Jeffrey Brown is our incredible arts and culture correspondent. WOODRUFF: When I started to think even about journalism, I was already a senior in college.
And so I started thinking, “What in the world else am I going to do?” And a professor in college said to me, “Would you ever think about covering politics? You might do that for a couple of years and see if you liked that.” And based on multiple conversations I had, I thought, “OK, I’ll apply for a job. ...
...You might do that for a couple of years and see if you liked that.” And based on multiple conversations I had, I thought, “OK, I’ll apply for a job. But I don’t have any newspaper clips.” And I knew that a newspaper was not going to hire somebody who had never written, never done any journalism.
I [had] said, “Well, I don’t want to be a gofer,” and then I ended up being a secretary, a gofer. One of the one of the news directors, the ABC affiliate news director in Atlanta, hired me as the newsroom secretary.
Is there any interview that stands out as particularly challenging for you?
I asked him, I said, “How much of a challenge is it dealing with North Korea because we don’t have eyes and ears on the ground?” And he didn’t say anything.
I said, “Oh, OK, do you want to say anything else?” And then he also said that TikTok was a national security concern, which made news.
DEADLINE: You have told the story about getting hired at a station in Atlanta [and the person who hired you] said, “How could ...
...I not hire someone with legs like yours?” You have talked about how different it was for women when you got your start.
What do you think are still some of the biggest challenges now for women in the news media? Our executive producer Sara Just is a woman.
I kept saying, over the years, “Well, we’re promoting women, but we don’t have enough women in management.” We’ve done better but I think we still could do better.