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TCA Press Tour: PBS' 'Need to Know' anchors know following Bill Moyers isn't easy

August 5, 2010 | 11:13 am

PBS-Need-to-Know-HO_443784c It’s not easy when a new show inherits a time slot. It’s even harder when it’s one that was once occupied by veteran journalist Bill Moyers.

“Obviously you can’t replace Bill Moyers,” said Alison Stewart, co-anchor of PBS’ “Need to Know,” the Friday night public affairs program that took over the slot after Moyers retired in May.  “That’s just a ridiculous notion.”

Stewart, along with co-anchor Jon Meacham, discussed how they’ve been received by viewers post-Moyers departure Thursday at the TCA press tour -- viewers who feared the hour-long news-magazine show would fail to live up to the programs it replaced, “Bill Moyers Journal” and “Now PBS.” Stewart likened the process to the five stages of grieving.

“We caught [viewers] in anger,” she said. Moyers, she added, “has been an unbelievable supporter of ours. We’re just doing what he set out to do: seek out the truth.”

Moyers, at 75, decided to semi-retire from the daily grind, signing off from his weekly show but promising to return with specials. “Now” was canceled.

“Need to Know” combines multimedia with current-affairs, reporting on the economy, energy and the environment, security, health and culture — with reports filed online throughout the week and culminating in Friday’s broadcast.

“Journalism is the first rough draft of history,” said Meacham, formerly editor of Newsweek.  “And some drafts are rougher than others. The entire landscape is shifting so rapidly. The state of reporting is in peril and the kind of independent reporting that PBS has done so well for so long … is growing ever more difficult to produce, the kind of journalism that the country needs. Life is a baseball season; sometimes you get it right, and sometimes it’s not so great. My sense is that the audience is coming and coming back and still seeing what we’re doing.”

ShowTrackers, are you tuning in?

— Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham. Credit: PBS.