PBS’ weekly news analysis series Washington Week paneled Wednesday afternoon at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, which is being held virtually again this year because of the pandemic.
PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor became moderator of Washington Week on Friday, May 7. Alcindor is the ninth moderator in Washington Week’s 54-year history, following Washington Post political reporter Robert Costa, who held the position from 2017 to 2021, and the late Gwen Ifill, Alcindor’s mentor who moderated the program from 1999 until her death in 2016.
“She instilled in me so many things that I lean on every single day,” Alcindor said during today’s panel. “Including a real focus on making sure that we’re telling a story in journalism that is truthful, that is founded in the idea of being focused on justice and also on peeling back what’s going on in Washington so that we understand what’s at play with power and politics in this country and how that impacts everyday Americans’ lives.”
Alcindor also credits Ifill for instilling in her a sense of confidence that she can be successful on camera. “I remember calling her the first I was booked on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and I was panicking, thinking ‘oh my god, I can’t handle this huge task to sit at this morning show.’ She told me “you deserve this, you earned this, and you know just as much as anyone around that table.’ That is what I lean on as I take the helm of Washington Week and as I find myself in these incredible opportunities to question presidents.”
When asked how she differentiates the weekly show from what cable news panel discussion shows are doing on a nightly basis, Alcindor replied, “Nowhere else in the industry, nowhere else on TV are you going to see the top White House reporters or the top correspondents from different networks sitting down at the same table. You’re not going to see the chief White House correspondent for CNN talking to the chief legal analyst of NBC, talking to the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post—and then a health reporter from the Atlantic, and then they’re all having this conversation anywhere. I think that’s what makes us unique. I think it’s great the other networks recognize Washington Week is a place that they want to send their different journalists.”
Alcindor is a veteran correspondent, but being the permanent anchor of a program is still relatively new to her. When asked if she is responded to differently by the administration or her peers now that she’s also a program anchor, she responded, “not only is getting the title of anchor helpful in elevating my ability to access different people and different sources, but also the title ‘Washington Week,’ because it is such a respected show that people see as a real Washington institution. “I am having sources that maybe had been hard to connect with—I think it’s sometimes easier to connect with them because I’m at Washington Week now, and because they see me at this different level of reporting.”
Alcindor became well-known for combative interactions with former President Trump and his press secretaries during the last administration. The tenor of her day to day job has changed with the new administration. “The tone of this administration is more respectful, it’s less hostile,” she said. “There’s still a back and forth with the Biden administration when it comes to pushing for information and wanting to get answers to questions that sometimes the administration doesn’t want to answer. There’s still that ‘Washington spin’ that happens. But the last administration called out reporters, such as myself, in personal terms, and in sometimes nasty and threatening terms. The relationship has gone back to the more traditional relationship between the White House press corps and the White House … it’s definitely different, but still very busy.”