The Booster Shot Americans Need to Cure Incivility

Brooks and Capehart.  How many of you know either of these two individuals?

The PBS News Hour.  When was the last time you watched this broadcast?

For those of you who don’t know, back when there were three major networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—there was the little engine that could:  the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

PBS first broadcast its news show, The Robert MacNeil Report, back in 1975.  When reporter Jim Lehrer shared anchor duties with MacNeil, the show became the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Almost a decade ago, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff became the first all-female anchoring team.

Sadly, the PBS News Hour always finishes in fourth place behind the big three in the ratings race, but in terms of quality, it is number one.

To me, it has always been the most intelligent, balanced news program on the air.  If you are used to having animated images all around the frame on your TV screen, this is not the show for you.  This is the news in all its undressed staging, sometimes dry, that requires the listener to pay attention.  The pace is refreshingly deliberate.  The producers take time to inform the viewers, rewarding them with more information, less bells and whistles.  It is quite calming.

The highlight of the show for me has always been its final segment each week where two commentators share their differing views—one liberal, one conservative—on that week’s top news stories.  

Whether it was Mark Shields or David Gergen, or David Brooks or Jonathan Capehart, it is comforting hearing smart thinkers make sense of a troubling world.

Just because Brooks is a conservative and Capehart is a liberal has no bearing on their loyalty to a label.  Neither journalist is a mouthpiece of any political party or politician.  On any given Friday evening you can hear Brooks applaud Biden or Capehart chastise Biden. 

These two men with different views respect each other by not raising their voices or insulting one another.  On no other news program can you find such civility, decency and humanity. 

How refreshing is that?

It makes one believe in goodness, gives hope that we are not all doomed.  How wonderful our society would be if we just listened to each other and respected each other.  It really is all about sharing common values.

Watching Brooks and Capehart on the PBS NewsHour is a 15-minute booster shot that America somehow still has a chance of coming out of whatever mess we are in as a nation.