From its almost accidental birth in 1968, 60 Minutes has set the standard for broadcast journalism, joining us in our living rooms each Sunday night to surprise us about the world. The show has profiled every major leader, artist, and movement of the past five decades, perfecting the news-making interview and inventing the groundbreaking TV expose. From legendary sit-downs with Richard Nixon in 1968 (in which he promised “to restore respect to the presidency”) and Bill Clinton in 1992 (after the first revelations of infidelity) to landmark investigations into the tobacco industry, Lance Armstrong’s doping, and the torture of prisoners in Abu-Ghraib, the broadcast has not just reported on our world but changed it too.
Now, Executive Producer Jeff Fager pulls back the curtain on how this remarkable journalism is done, taking the reader into the editing room with the show’s brilliant producers and beloved correspondents, including hard-charging Mike Wallace, writer’s-writer Morley Safer, soft-but-tough Ed Bradley, relentless Lesley Stahl, ace interviewer Charlie Rose, tireless Anderson Cooper, intrepid Scott Pelley, and illuminating storyteller Steve Kroft. He details the decades of human drama that have made the show’s success possible: the ferocious (and encouraged) competition between correspondents, the door slamming, the risk-taking, and the pranks. Fager takes on the program’s mistakes and describes what it learned from them. Above all, he reveals the essential tenets that have never changed: why founder Don Hewitt believed “hearing” a story is more important than seeing it, why the “small picture” is the best way to illuminate a larger one, and why the most memorable stories are almost always those with a human being at the center.
At once a sweeping portrait of fifty years of American cultural history and an intimate look at how the news gets made, Fifty Years of 60 Minutes shares the secret of what’s made the nation’s favorite TV program exceptional for all these years.
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