The award-winning weekly public television series (PBS), "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly," is slated to end after 20 years of broadcasting, announced representatives of WNET, the parent company of Thirteen Productions. The show's last episode will be Feb. 24, 2017. The group's website will remain available, providing an extensive archive, including transcripts of individual shows and streaming videos. Des Moines Register staffers called this show "a blueprint for how to accurately report on religion."
"It has been a great privilege to report the many ways people of faith worship and serve others," R&E host and executive editor Bob Abernethy said in a Dec. 14 statement. "We are deeply grateful to our thoughtful staff and also to our viewers, many of whom have told us the program consistently affirms the values they most respect."
Founded by Abernethy, who now is 89 years old, and launched in 1997, the show provided national and international news coverage and analysis about religion. It included interviews with newsmakers ranging from the Dalai Lama to former President Jimmy Carter, profiles of religious leaders, such as evangelist Billy Graham and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and surveys about faith after 9/11 and about "nones," or the unaffiliated, reports RNS.
Abernethy and his wife are ordained members of the United Church of Christ.
The show won more than 200 industry awards, including all of the Religion News Association's 2016 honors for television news magazine religion reporting, and made similar RNA sweeps in two previous years. It was also honored with the Wilbur, Gracie Allen and New York Festival awards.
"WNET is honored to have been the producing station for 'Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly' all these years," said Stephen Segaller, vice president of programming for WNET. "We take great pride in all the awards and accolades the series has deservedly garnered during this time."
Abernethy received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He also studied divinity at Yale Divinity School. In the early 1960s, he was host of NBC's news magazine Update, a weekly feature that explained news originating from Washington, D.C., to teenagers; the show aired on Saturday afternoons for several years.
He was honored with the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award by The Interfaith Center of New York during June 2015.
Abernethy's original proposal for the program grew out of his longtime interest in religion and in response to widespread criticism of American television's lack of attention to religion news. According to PBS sources, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly airs on more than 250 public stations nationwide with a weekly audience of 570,000 viewers.
Major funding for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly is provided by Lilly Endowment Inc., with additional support from Mutual of America Life Insurance Company and individual supporters.