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‘Beat The Press’ canceled after 22 years, GBH confirms

Emily RooneySteven Senne/AP/file

“Beat The Press,” the popular local news program hosted by Emily Rooney on GBH News, has been canceled after a 22-year run, a network executive said Friday.

In a statement, Pam Johnston, general manager at GBH News, confirmed the cancellation, a stunning development on the local media landscape. “Beat The Press” had been on a summer hiatus, following a controversy that erupted in April over on-air comments made by Rooney that she later apologized for.

“This was a difficult decision,” Johnston said. “Beat the Press has been one of GBH’s longest running news shows and has provided viewers with informative and thought-provoking insight, commentary and perspective on the workings of the media. We are grateful to Emily Rooney for her award-winning work, her dedication to her craft, and her many contributions to GBH over 24 years.”

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“Beat The Press” wasn’t the only casualty of the network’s programming adjustments. “Innovation Hub” with Kara Miller also isn’t long for the airwaves, per the statement.

Miller’s program will run through mid-November in national distribution with PRX, according to GBH.

Innovation Hub has given us a deeper understanding of the inventive spirit of human ideas and technology over the course of a decade,” Johnston said. “We thank Kara Miller and the Innovation Hub production team for their exceptional work, creativity and contributions to public media.”

The end of the line for “Beat The Press” follows a controversy that gripped the show in April, following a statement made by Rooney with the cameras rolling.

On the April 2 episode of “Beat the Press,” Rooney appeared to minimize the complaints of a group called Beyond Inclusion, which in March released a letter critical of PBS’s ties to documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and its effect on nonwhite filmmakers.

Rooney characterized Beyond Inclusion’s grievances, which were sent to PBS President Paula Kerger and posted on the group’s website, as “resentment that a white guy is getting all this time.” She went on to say “there’s a possibility” that the PBS series “Asian Americans,” whose director, Grace Lee, signed the Beyond Inclusion letter, “wasn’t as good as some of Ken Burns’s films.”

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Rooney’s comments ignited a firestorm, with a group calling itself Documentary Producers Alliance-Northeast sending GBH executives a letter, protesting what it called Rooney’s “demeaning and racist commentary” on the April 2 show.

Rooney later issued a mea culpa, telling viewers in a taped apology that “in an attempt to defend PBS and Ken Burns, I suggested that perhaps some of the other documentaries, like the ‘Asian Americans’ series, weren’t as good as Burns, and that could be the reason they did not get more air time.”

After hearing from viewers, Rooney said, she “now understands my comments were uninformed, dismissive, and disrespectful. While my intention was to offer further balance to the discussion, my comments did not accomplish that, and instead I crossed a line.

“I want to sincerely apologize for my offensive remarks,” she concluded.

On Friday, Johnston said that as GBH moves on from “Beat The Press” and “Innovation Hub,” the network will look to deepen “its focus on audience-centered local stories, and concentrating its editorial efforts on the critical issues of education, social justice, Covid/public health and politics.”

Rooney could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Dan Kennedy, a frequent “Beat The Press” contributor, wrote Friday on his Media Nation blog that Rooney leaves a proud legacy.

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“I haven’t had a chance to talk with Emily yet, but I wish her all the best,” Kennedy wrote. “She is a legendary figure in Boston media, as news director of WCVB-TV (Channel 5), at the national level and, for the past quarter century, at GBH News. It will be interesting to see what she does next.”

Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.