What’s The Future of PBS NewsHour? Spencer Michels Shares His Perspective

What’s The Future of PBS NewsHour? Spencer Michels Shares His Perspective

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

PBS NewsHour has recently updated its format with the first all female anchor team, refreshed its website and added a weekend program. How will it change in the next twelve months? Longtime PBS correspondent and San Francisco media personality Spencer Michels shares the long view and asks a key question:

“What can we put on the air that will get people to watch?”

Michels describes how the media landscape has changed dramatically since he became a journalist fifty years ago. As well as anchoring the KQED show “Express” and working on “Evening Edition” with Belva Davis,  Michels has been a PBS correspondent and now also contributes to KQED’s latest news show, KQED Newsroom with Thuy Vu and Scott Shafer.


Before our video interview, Michels shared a poignant memory from his childhood; an experience that helped plant the seeds for his journey in journalism. He recalls being a child in San Francisco during the Second World War.

“I was without my father for the first three grades in school…it was tough,” says Michels. “I still remember the day that my father returned from the war. It was very dramatic. He drove up in a car. I was at school on the second or third floor and there he was. I was eight years old and hadn’t seen him in three years.”

I asked Michels to describe the scene.

“I did run down and I did embrace him on the street. It was an emotional experience…I’m sure there were tears,” says Michels. “After that, everything changed.”

Those three years were formative for Michels, who went on to explore the world during a remarkable career in journalism. After working for PBS NewsHour as a national correspondent for 30 years, he was laid off  last year during a major cost cutting exercise. As weekend anchor, Hari Sreenivasan recently explained to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, “facts are expensive.” That is, doing intelligent, original journalism doesn’t come cheap, especially in the Bay Area.

PBS NewsHour may have found one answer to the plunge in television viewers  and that’s PBS Digital Studio’s new show “Everything but the News” the brainchild of Steve Goldbloom and Noah Pink.

It’s a tongue in cheek, behind the scenes look at the work of a PBS NewsHour correspondent. The low budget, goofy juxtaposition between Goldbloom and his demanding PBS NewsHour producer, Jordan Smith, is downright hilarious at times. On air Introductions by news heavyweights like Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill and Hari Sreenivasan lend gravitas to the whole endeavor. PBS NewsHour hopes it will help to capture the exodus of its audience from television to online streaming and grab more younger viewers in the process. It looks like a winning formula.

At Fresh Dialogues, I’m used to getting Fresh Answers, but as you’ll see in this interview, I also got some unsolicited media tips from a pro. :-)

Michels was too kind to comment on my excessive head nodding, but I will definitely be working on that.


Check out other Fresh Dialogues interviews with Elon Musk, Meryl Streep and Jeffrey Toobin at the Fresh Dialogues YouTube Channel.

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Interviews with Elon Musk Inspire Word Art Series

Interviews with Elon Musk Inspire Word Art Series

Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

When was the last time you saw a piece of art inspired by an interview? I stumbled across a series of six word clouds inspired by the following Elon Musk interviews.

They were created by Tyra Robertson who leads Elon Enthusiast.


1. KQED’s Computer History Museum Visionaries Series

2. PBS Show Think Tank

3. (Digg’s) Kevin Rose Interview Series

4.The Oxford Martin School at Oxford University

5.The Mars Society

6. The Royal Aeronautical Society.

I was very honored to be included in such an illustrious collection. If you missed my interview at the Computer History Museum in January 2013, here’s the video.



And here’s some feedback from across the web:

“I am impressed with your ease and confidence and the way you were able to lead Musk with charm and fluency and keep the flow of the interview crisp and vital — in a word alive!  Good work & warm congratulations.” Michael Krasny, Host KQED’s Forum

“Having seen every single video of Elon Musk, what I really apppreciated was that the interviewer prefaced her questions with content from Elon’s more practiced answers, so we saved a lot of time and just jumped into a ton of new information never mentioned in other interviews. Very good interviewer. 10/10!” Maximus Victorius on YouTube

“Loved the program.  Alison conveyed a mastery of the subject, and the vocal counterpart was delicious.   Perhaps the best interview I have heard.” Steve Jurvetson, Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist

“Alison really captured his charm and warmth and aspirations in a lovely way.  He seemed more at ease  and willing to be honest with Alison than in any interview I have seen him in. Her questions were excellent, and she was so articulate and poised on stage.”   Laurie Yoler, a Tesla investor who was part of the 500-strong live audience.
“This is an example of my favorite kind of interview, the journalist asks well thought questions and then sits back and lets the subject tell the story.” Tyra Robertson, Elon Enthusiast

“I love how knowledgeable the interviewer is. It really opens up different answers from Elon that I haven’t heard a million times.” AlphacentauriAB on Reddit

KQED Perspectives – Talk To Me

Talking heads who shout and lie dominate television “news,” but after Alison van Diggelen gets a taste of civil discourse at a local debate, she sees politics as it should be.

Host: Alison van Diggelen