Need to Know (PBS)

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Need to Know
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 166
Running time 54 minutes (May 7, 2010-Sept 9, 2011)
24 minutes (Sept 16, 2011 - June 28, 2013)
Original network PBS
Original release May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07) – June 28, 2013 (2013-06-28)[1]
External links

Need to Know is an American public television news program produced by WNET (a New York City PBS station), and broadcast weekly on all Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate-stations in the United States (plus, ABC News 24, in Australia). It aired from May 2010 until June 2013.

PBS stated that the show was intended to fill the public-affairs and "hard"/investigative news void left by both the one-hour Bill Moyers Journal (which had ended with Mr. Moyers' [ultimately temporary] retirement), and the cancelled, half-hour NOW on PBS (hosted by investigative journalist David Brancaccio, a Moyers protege). Both departing shows had been long-running, highly rated, and critically acclaimed for their journalistic quality, and focus on issues that deeply impacted regular Americans' lives, yet went largely ignored by commercial TV news outlets. "NTK" branded itself the "TV and Web newsmagazine [that] gives you what you need to know." [2][3] PBS had described the show as “a multi-platform current affairs news magazine, uniting broadcast and web in an innovative approach to newsgathering and reporting”. Initially, it was co-hosted by Alison Stewart (a regular contributor to NPR, and, at the time, The Rachel Maddow Show's main substitute-host); and, journalist, author, and then-Newsweek magazine (original version) editor-in-chief Jon Meacham. Later, the show was hosted by one journalist (out of a rotating group of three) who presented pre-taped correspondent pieces, then asked follow-up questions of the correspondent, in-studio. A short segment followed, in which a prominent person reflected on a difference-making period from his or her past.

Throughout its first year-plus, the show failed to live up to the lofty expectations, and high production budget, that PBS had set for it. Many loyal PBS viewers were sharply critical of the show's style and content (or, the alleged lack thereof); thousands of "viewer mail" comments flooded into the offices of PBS's ombudsman. Managing only to generate ratings that fell far short of the shows it replaced, several attempts to re-tool the show were made. In April 2011, Meacham's role changed to that of "contributing editor" (i.e., a recurring commentary segment); Stewart became the show's sole anchor.[4]

The show's format was changed further effective September 16, 2011, for both broadcast and website; NPR's Scott Simon guest-hosted the first episode with this new format.[5] The website stated that the show would "spend the next 15 months covering the campaign for president, but we’re going to do it differently ...[,] covering the campaign from the voters’ perspective, not the candidates’".[6] The costly production was halved to a 30-minute format; also, Stewart left the show on September 9, 2011, citing the desire to focus on a book project and her family, plus, a lack of interest in the show's new direction.[4][7]

In May 2013, PBS officials informed the network's member stations that Need to Know would be replaced by Charlie Rose Weekend (later retitled Charlie Rose: The Week) in July. WNET declined comment on the cancellation. Many of the employees who had worked on Need to Know were expected to move to PBS NewsHour's new, weekend edition, which will also be produced by WNET. Marc Rosenwasser, who was the executive producer of Need to Know, will serve in the same capacity for PBS NewsHour Weekend, which is scheduled to premiere on September 7, 2013.[8][9]

External links


  1. "Need to Know on PBS". Facebook. June 19, 2013. Retrieved July 19, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Need to Know official website; no longer so branded there 2011-09-18.
  3. O'Connor, Rory, "Is PBS Show 'Need to Know' on the Ropes?". AlterNet, 2/2/2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jensen, Elizabeth, "Anchor to Leave PBS’s ‘Need to Know’", New York Times Media Decoder blog, August 28, 2011 6:21 pm EDT. Via "Posts tagged with 'Alison Stewart'", NYTimes. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  5. NTK's home page, accessed 2011-09-18. The episode is accessible here.
  6. Lewis, Shelley, "Welcome to the new Need to Know website", NTK webpage, September 14, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  7. Stewart, Alison, "Alison signs off", NTK webpage, September 9, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  8. Jensen, Elizabeth (May 19, 2013). "Charlie Rose to Host a Show in Prime Time on PBS". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Vyse, Graham (July 2, 2013). "PBS expands NewsHour and Charlie Rose". American University School of Communication. Retrieved July 19, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>