Journalist Bob Abernethy, Founder of PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Dead at 93

John Paluska | Contributor | Tuesday, May 4, 2021
A coffin at a funeral, Bob Abernethy dies at 93

Journalist Bob Abernethy, Founder of PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Dead at 93

Bob Abernethy, a veteran journalist who has been working for NBC News for more than 40 years, has died at 93.

Abernethy worked across the world, in New York, Los Angeles, London and Moscow. He documented the Soviet Union's fall in 1991. In 1997, he began to focus more on religion. That was when he started Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly with PBS.

"There's an enormous amount of interest in this part of life. There's not enough being done to cover this part of life, given the interest, and we hope to fill that niche," Abernethy said of the new show.

On the show, Abernethy interviewed former President Jimmy Carter, a Dalai Lama, Billy Graham, and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He also covered faith after 9/11 and the rise of the "nones" or people who did not ascribe to any one religion.

Kim Lawton, the producer of his show, said of the show, which is now off the air, that she's "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. And that was all because of Bob's vision for the importance of religion in society as well as in individual lives."

Lawton added that Abernethy focused on making sure each religion was covered as accurately as possible. "We always had to get it right," Lawton said to Religion News Service. "That was so important to Bob. Religion is hard. It's easy to get it wrong, but he was insistent that we do it right."

Abernethy was born in Geneva, Switzerland and was brought up as a Christian. He described his love of old hymns. His grandfather was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and he spent many Sundays there. Abernethy told Arthur J. Magida, an author, that "Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, I would watch my grandfather preach, looking past the full, white, very well-trimmed beard of 'the Chief.'" He concluded, "Whatever I do will be strongly influenced in more ways than I'm conscious of by my early years at Calvary Baptist, the church of my grandfather."

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kris Loertscher/EyeEm

John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.