Adaora Udoji’s job as the PBS Vice President of Programming & Operations on the General Audience Programming team is to focus on news, public affairs, and independent film programming. A major part of the news portion is “PBS NewHour,” the daily look at the day’s top stories.

“As our world navigates the complexities of elections, a global pandemic, inflation, climate change, race and gender disparities, gun violence, and the ever-growing impact of technological advances, the work of journalists and storytellers – who understand fact from fiction, shedding light on what’s critically important – is, as ever, vital work,” Udoji says.

To accomplish this mission, “PBS NewsHour” has been continuously expanding. The news program is available seven days a week on both broadcast and digital. This includes the “PBS News Weekend,” a new digital anchor desk and the addition of local reporters in communities across the country.

The locally embedded reporters for the PBS news offerings are based in the five communities of St. Louis, New Orleans, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Fresno. Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado has spent more than a year as the reporter for the “PBS NewsHour” who reports out of Fresno, the home of Valley PBS.

In an ideal world, the “PBS NewHour” would have a reporter in every city across the country. Because that was not feasible, some very serious consideration had to be given as to where the handful of reporters they would be able to hire should be placed.

The decision to have a reporter based in Central California rather than in one of the major news hubs of Los Angeles or San Francisco was a simple decision for Aaron Foley, Senior Editor, Communities Initiative.

“Even though some of these stories may seem local, every story that we do out of these communities have ripple effects across the country.  So Fresno, for example, we’re talking Central California that has not only grappled with constant wildfires, as much as California has, but also a historic ongoing drought,” Foley says. “It’s one of those things that may get talked about every once in a while, but as our reporter in Fresno has pointed out, and several local reporters there in the local market have pointed out, we’ve been able to point out on a larger platform, is that this drought has been ongoing for years now.  Year after year after year rainfall just does not come in the volume that it has in years past. 

“So, because Central California is also a huge agricultural breadbasket for the rest of the country, this has ripple effects for the farmworkers and the agricultural workers that work there who may not be able to deliver whatever produce, avocados and things like that, all those things that come out of Central California, to the rest of the country.”

Stories dealing with the drought or wildfires could have been easily covered by reporters from the major news centers. The idea behind the Communities Initiative is that the people reporting in cities such as Fresno have a more direct connection because they have grown up in the community. Rodriguez-Delgado was raised in the San Joaquin Valley and graduated from Fresno State and attended Fresno City College.

Foley believes that too often the new industry tends to hire from outside a specific community rather than promoting from within. Selecting someone close to the community means the correspondents can walk the walk and talk the talk when they are approaching their subjects because they know these people.

“Every correspondent that we have has not only a personal connection to the communities they cover, but they are networked within because they know everybody there,” Foley says. “They know the streets.  They can get places without Google Maps and things like that.”

Wildfires and droughts are continuing major headlines from the Central Valley but what Foley and his team discovered with a city like Fresno is that it is a bellwether for what’s going on politically in a lot of places. Looking at cities outside the major news markets offers a different perspective on everything from gun safety and violence to abortion access.

Local reporters show how these issues have played out on the ground through local elections and statewide elections. And, they can put those local issues into perspective because of their long connection to the community. This means there is no dropping into a community when something catastrophic happens and then immediately parachute back out.

Foley adds that he thinks that it can definitely serve as a model for other news organizations to embed reporters in these places that can sometimes be overlooked in mainstream news coverage.

The coverage provided by the “PBS NewsHour” can be seen at 6 p.m. seven days a week on Valley PBS. The weekday program is anchored by Judy Woodruff while the weekend duties fall to Geoff Bennett.