He hosted one of the best and most enduring television programs on religion, and employed some superb former network news talent — including Bob Faw and Phil Jones, among others, from CBS News. And the contribution the program made to the broadcasting landscape was invaluable.
Veteran broadcast journalist Bob Abernethy, who founded the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly,” has died at the age of 93.
He died on Sunday (May 2) in Brunswick, Maine, his daughter Jane Montgomery Abernethy announced in a Facebook post. She said her father died of natural causes.
Abernethy was a correspondent for NBC News for more than four decades. Working in Washington, Los Angeles, London and Moscow, he covered the fledgling U.S. space program, Congress and the Soviet Union’s collapse.
In 1997, he turned his broadcast expertise to the world of religion, launching his award-winning PBS news program that would go on to run for almost 20 years.
“There’s an enormous amount of interest in this part of life,” Abernethy said when plans were unveiled for “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.” “There’s not enough being done to cover this part of life, given the interest, and we hope to fill that niche.”
Abernethy was both the host and executive editor of the show, which featured national and international stories and analyses about religion. It included interviews of newsmakers such as former President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama, profiles of religious leaders like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and evangelist Billy Graham and surveys about “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated, and faith after 9/11.
“I’ve heard over and over again, since the show went off the air, how much people miss it and how much we filled a niche in especially mainstream television,” said Kim Lawton, the show’s managing editor who now runs her own production company. “And that was all because of Bob’s vision for the importance of religion in society as well as in individual lives.”
Read on to learn more about his life and religious upbringing.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord …