Jones, 64, has been with The Washington Post Co. for 32 years, serving as general counsel and as publisher and chief executive of the Post newspaper from 2000 to 2008. He is currently vice chairman of The Post Co. and chairman of the newspaper.
In a brief interview Thursday morning, Jones said he thought “the time was coming” to leave the company and take on a new challenge. “I love The Post,” he said. “This was an exciting opportunity and that’s what’s really driving it.” He added, “There’s no one I admire more than Don,” referring to Don Graham, The Post Co.’s chief executive and a longtime friend of Jones’s dating back to their high school years at St. Albans School in Washington.
Graham, in turn, praised Jones for his long tenure at the company. “If I made a list of the greatest contributors to the Post over the last 30 years, Bo Jones would be right up there with Ben Bradlee and Len Downie,” the paper’s former editors, he said in a statement. “Bo won crucial lawsuits for the paper and kept us out of many more; he was a wise and resourceful publisher at a critical time; and his values, character and integrity epitomize what’s best in our business.”
“It is a happy day for us in public broadcasting,” said a statement from Robert MacNeil, former “NewsHour” anchor and co-founder, with Jim Lehrer, of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. “We welcome a man of such rich experience in journalism management to help us keep MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and the Newshour vital into the future.”
Jones joins MacNeil/Lehrer at a time of transition for its signature program. Like other news programs, its audience has gradually eroded with the expansion of news programming on cable TV and on the Internet, but it estimates that it reaches about 5 million viewers (via TV and the Internet) and listeners (via a radio feed and podcast) each week.
In December 2009, MacNeil/Lehrer changed the name of the program from “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” to “PBS NewsHour” to reflect a multi-anchor team that included Lehrer and senior correspondents Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Jeffrey Brown, Ray Suarez and Margaret Warner.
Lehrer announced his retirement earlier this year. He will continue to oversee the program as executive editor after he leaves the air in December. Linda Winslow, its longtime executive producer, will continue in that role.
The program, which is produced in Arlington in conjunction with Arlington public television station WETA, traces its roots to 1973, when MacNeil, a Canadian broadcaster, and Kansas-born Lehrer came together to anchor public television’s coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings. The pair became friends and neighbors and went on to establish their daily news program.
“Bo Jones is the ideal person to take us where we must go,” Lehrer said. “He has a unique combination of journalistic integrity and business acumen, plus he understands Americans’ increasing demand for serious journalism about the issues and events that matter.”
Jones is a graduate of Harvard, where he headed the Harvard Crimson newspaper. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from Oxford University. At Harvard Law School, he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He served as a law clerk for Judge Levin H. Campbell on the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1974-75 and then was in private practice in Boston from 1975 to 1980. He joined The Post in 1980 as vice president and counsel and became president and general manager in 1995, assuming responsibility for the business side of the newspaper.
Jones said he is excited about working with Winslow, the PBS program’s executive producer.
In addition to the “NewsHour,” MacNeil/Lehrer produces documentaries and features. One of its recent projects was “Debating Our Destiny,” a two-part series in which Lehrer interviewed former presidential and vice presidential candidates about their debate experiences. Lehrer, a novelist and moderator of many presidential debates, is the author of a recently published book about the debates, “Tension City.”
Jones will succeed Simon Marks, who will return to reporting and production, MacNeil/Lehrer said.