John Yang Will Anchor ‘PBS News Weekend’ (EXCLUSIVE)

John Yang Will Anchor ‘PBS News Weekend’ (EXCLUSIVE)

December 8, 2022

After a long career spent covering politics and foreign affairs, John Yang has recently focused on the workings of the Supreme Court. Now he’s about to add to his caseload.

Yang, 64 years old, will take over as anchor of “PBS News Weekend,” marking the latest change to the venerable news franchise once known as “The MacNeil-Lehrer Report” since it was placed entirely under the aegis of Washington’s WETA in April. His tenure as the lead presenter of the weekend program commences December 31, just as the current anchor ,Geoff Bennett, joins Amna Nawaz, at the weekday edition of the show, “PBS NewsHour,” succeeding Judy Woodruff.

Yang vows to deliver coverage of “the same sorts of issues that are important to our weekday audience and that you only see on ‘NewsHour,’ quite frankly — the strong foreign coverage, the attention to climate change.”

But Yang will also be able to add other stories to the mix that may surprise viewers, notes Rachel Wellford, executive producer of the half-hour weekend program, who returned from a stint working at CNN to take the reins of the weekend edition. Viewers can expect to see “a mix of the lighter things that people want to be looking at during the weekend, interviews with artists and musicians, athletes. There’s a whole range of things we don’t necessarily have time for during the ‘PBS NewsHou’ broadcast five days a week that we can expand during weekends,,” she says. “We will continues to build on that.”

A former reporter for The Boston Globe, Time, The Washington Post, and NBC News, Yang joined “NewsHour” in February, 2016, as a national correspondent covering the presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump administration. He has since focused much of his reporting on the Supreme Court, a job he expects to continue.

“All these big cases, all these constitutional issues, most of them have an individual behind them, a person,” says Yang. Getting to that figure helps him illustrate for viewers what may be at stake in a Supreme Court decision — removing it from coverage that is more academic. Finding a veteran who has been exposed to burn pits or the person who doesn’t want to offer her services to same-sex couples makes such stories tangible, says Yang, who enjoys getting out from behind the anchor desk. “Getting out in the field is really what gives my work energy,” he adds.

Sometimes, the weekend show can even get ahead of the news cycle by digging deeper into stories that haven’t gotten much coverage elsewhere. “PBS News Weekend” was able to examine worsening baby-formula shortages in April, for example. The story became one of national interest in May.

“On weekends, there are fewer of those ‘have-to-do’ stories,” notes Sara Just, senior executive producer of PBS NewsHour Productions, who oversees both weekday and weekend programs. So journalists on the weekend team “can sometimes get ahead of weekdays,” she says. Yang will be at the helm of those efforts.

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