tv 50th Anniversary of 60 Minutes CSPAN April 7, 2018 11:13pm-12:43am EDT
program 60news minutes is marking its 60th anniversary. -- the cbs news program 60 minutes is marking its 50th anniversary. correspondent bill whitaker and executive producer jeff fager sat down to share the stories and interviews they have done and the correspondents they have worked with. this is an hour and a half. andrea: good evening, everyone. thank you so much for coming. welcome to the national press club, the world's leading professional organization for journalists. my name is andrea at me and i am the 111th president. i would like to take a second if you have not already, please silence your cell phones. so when i started dating my husband, who is here in audience -- he doesn't know i am going to say this -- i learned that every sunday evening for years he had been watching 60 minutes and i
thought hallelujah. here is a man of substance and good taste. while i can't give 60 minutes the full credit for our marriage, learning that this man was so curious about the world that he would spend his sunday evening watching this particular show, that was definitely a move in the right direction. this is a show that matters. in a news cycle that is increasingly dominated by breaking news and short soundbites, this program takes the time to do the reporting and conduct the interviews that really show what people have to say. that kind of in-depth coverage helped shape and inform an understanding of the world for millions of people are that is what this show has been doing for 50 years. we are so pleased and honored to welcome here tonight from cbs
news 60 minutes executive producer jeff fager, correspondent bill whitaker -- [applause] andrea: and i would like to extend a special thanks to cbs news executive director for communications kevin tudesco who did so much to make all of this possible. [applause] andrea: this evening was the brainchild of michael freedman, the former general manager of cbs and escort of officers at the national press club. he worked with four teams here at the club, a headliner steam, broadcast broadcast, history and heritage and more to pull this evening together. thank you. [applause]
andrea: also i would like to extend big thanks to lindsay underwood and her tireless support for this evening as well as to our executive director bill mccarran, right over there, for his leadership and guidance, and especially to our friends and colleagues at pbs news for us -- cbs news for their enthusiastic yes when mike asked them to come, their willingness to come down from new york for this evening. so our evening will include 50 minutes of conversation, 20 minutes of q and a with the audience, a book signing of 50 years of 60 minutes, during a reception in the ballroom. thank you for being here tonight. it is going to be a fabulous evening. [applause] michael: thanks very much, andrea, and welcome to the national press club. there is a wonderful line in the great john ford western "man who shot liberty valance" in which
the local newspaper editor said when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. as the story goes at cbs news, the one-time boy wonder don hewitt who tutored under edward r. murrow had fallen out of favor with the powers that be. he was told by the cbs news president fred friendly being executive producer of the cbs evening news with walter cronkite wasn't big enough for him. so he was going to get his own special unit. he was thrilled until he was informed by those close to him that that wasn't a promotion at all. he had been fired from his job. undaunted, this man who could strike both joy and terror into the hearts of anyone he was approaching had an epiphany. what if he combined the see it now program, which helped bring back mccarthyism, with the popularity of murrow's other program, person to person?
there could be a way for a television show to feed the network's soul and simultaneously its populace. we can look into marilyn monroe's closet he said so long as we looked into robert oppenheimer's laboratory too. we could make the news entertaining without compromising our integrity, and with that, the man who took a demotion as a promotion invented 60 minutes. [clock ticking] ♪ >> good evening. this is 60 minutes. >> where does it come from? >> it is a kind of a magazine for television. >> congressman? >> what, no i don't want to do 60 minutes. >> i would like to get out of here. >> when you come out and talk to us? >> answer some questions.
>> i am scott pelley with 60 minutes. >> i want to ask you about the tweeting. >> not really popular in the country to be frank. >> i don't care what they say. >> i shouldn't be speaking. >> mr. president. >> they are not happy with the way you are doing your job. >> this is a tough business. >> why is it taking so long? >> right here across the bridge you can see the black flag of isis. >> so this is what you can expect in mosul. >> most people think you are the face of evil. >> and i am going to jail? >> only the stupid ones go to jail. >> you must know. >> i trust in him. ♪
>> hamilton certainly changes my life. ♪ [laughter] >> oh. >> you want to talk about that? 60's swinging minutes. >> drive. [laughter] >> whoa. >> how did you get around? >> that is a good question. no problem asking that question. >> i'm expecting an answer. come on. >> come on. >> come on. >> why? >> 60 minutes. >> 60 minutes. >> i am mike wallace. >> i am dan rather. >> i am ed bradley. >> i am diane sawyer. i'm steve kroft. >> i meredith vieira. >> i am scott pelley. >> i am katie couric.
i'm laura logan. >> i am anderson cooper. >> i am david martin. i'm sharon auntie. >> i am oprah winfrey. >> i am bill whitaker. tonight 50 years of 60 minutes. [ticking] [applause] michael: so 50 years later, don hewitt's creation is still on top, the most successful program in broadcasting history. just two nights ago 60 minutes garnered its highest ratings in 10 years with its stormy daniels interview. so tonight we print the legend, and we begin with jeff fager, executive producer of 60 minutes, former chairman of cbs news. as hewitt tutored under murrow, fager tutored under hewitt. tell us about don hewitt and what you learn from him. jeff: i learned so much.
don was an open book. and he was a great teacher, and he taught so much of what he learned from murrow and fred friendly, the president who did fire him. they did not like each other at all. it was an amazing thing because i think don because he got fired and realized it and eventually talked everybody into this new program, spent the rest of his career trying to hammer into us the things he learned from them. that is 35 years running 60 minutes, and that is a significant part of who we are and why we have succeeded i believe because those same standards and values he learned from them that he hammered into us over those years, we still live by. we have not compromised them a bit. he was fun. the program is fun. he was serious. the program is serious.
i think that among the things that mattered the most is that he taught the most is that we cover what is important, and that is primarily our role in the world. to cover what is important and make it interesting. and a fundamental difference that we carry on to this day that i think separates us out from every other newscast on television is that we will not, and we refuse to do audience research to determine what we should cover. and that is absolutely standard practice. we won't do it. and because we as editors want that decision, we make that decision, what is important and what is interesting, what should we be covering? and what makes that important is it is on us to make it interesting that you have to watch. i said earlier i love when
someone on monday said i didn't think i would be interested in that story, but i got something out of it, and you sucked me in the way you told it. so those are the things he taught us, and those are the things we maintained. it is incredible really that over these 50 years, those values haven't really changed. we have gone in and out of different phases. the broadcast is different when i took over based on decisions on being more current than we used to be. but fundamentally our values are the same, and i think the viewer sees that. the viewer still looks at the broadcast where the stories belong. did anybody watch this past sunday nights broadcast? [laughter] michael: bill whitaker, you are an amazingly accomplished , award-winning journalist of four decades, yet given the longevity of 60 minutes correspondents, do you ever feel
like a kid in a candy store? bill: i feel exactly like a kid in a candy store. after having worked for cbs for the evening news and morning news and sunday morning for 30 years, i loved it. i did, i loved it. i loved covering. i was out in the west, we had everything from colorado, from denver to hawaii, and alaska to chile. we had a huge area to cover. i loved it. but i had no idea that i could love it so much more, and coming here and working here and having the -- we were talking to a group of young journalists earlier, and just telling them that working for 60 minutes, working with jeff, if he says, i want that story, go ahead and do it, that is what you do.
you get up, you go with your crew, you go cover your story. you have the time you need to do it, the resources you need to do it, the support you need to do it. it is [laughter] it is a wonderful job in journalism. michael: we talked on some elements of this next question and your answer. but what was the transition like from cbs news correspondent to cbs news 60 minutes correspondent? jeff: i think i was too stupid in the beginning to realize it was a huge difference, and now that i am there, sometimes i look at myself and go home i -- go oh my gosh, what was i thinking? >> that is what i was thinking at the time. [laughter] bill: in truth when i first came in for the job and interviewed, i had just had about the worst story on the air that i had ever
had. it was something they launched us on about an hour before airtime, and you just had to slam something on the air. and i come in for this interview, and jeff said, it is kind of strange what i'm about to ask you considering you have had the worst story on the evening news probably in a decade, but how would you like to come and work at 60 minutes? it was like a dream come true. jeff: but the other thing is, bill is like the perfect person and reporter to come to 60 minutes and succeed. someone with so much experience covering every kind of story possible and covering it for the cbs evening news and covering it well and being based overseas, he has done about everything there is to do as a journalist. i think his transition was incredibly smooth and easy. there was a line of producers
outside his office that wanted to work with him because he is a nice guy. we are not always known as having the place for nice guy correspondents. but bill has been amazing and done so well. i think because of that level of experience. if you look at lesley stahl and steve kroft, scott pelley, everybody who has done well, morley safer, ed bradley, all those people you think about that sort of are synonymous with 60 minutes have that experience covering the world. bob simon, very much the way bill had done. michael: jeff had always said the success of 60 minutes came down to four words, tell me a story. is it as simple as that? [laughter] jeff: i think it is important because so much of what we try to do is tell a story you can follow, and we don't like to cover issues. we tell stories, and that is a fundamental difference.
that is what don meant by that. we find a narrow slot. we find a place i like to be on big stories, stories that everybody is aware of. but we help you better understand it because we take a narrow focus and really dive deep in that narrow focus. so i think that is really why what he said is so important, because we don't ever want to forget that ultimately what we are doing is storytelling. and it is that same discipline that forces us to work so hard. we work on every line, and we do it as a collaborative process in almost every story that gets on the air. every word matters to us. so you know, that process of telling a story is still very much what we do every sunday. michael: interview with stormy daniels grew a lot of attention and may have serious ramifications.
where would you say this piece might fall in the pantheon of 60 minutes reports, or is it too early to tell? bill: i think these are tough decisions to make, a story like this about sitting president and 60 minutes did two while president clinton was in office that were similar about relationships and affairs. it is a hard decision to make to do it for us, and it didn't come easily. once we knew it was a possibility, we sent a team out to spend some time, then we spent a lot of time discussing why it matters for us to do this story. at the end, it is important because it is a question of campaign finance laws and were there violations, and that is going to be investigated at some point. but you know, and the question of hush money before the campaign is what creates that issue.
so i think that as i thought about this and whether we would do it or not, it is in the paula jones category. and they are not easy stories to do. i think that this one, we literally worked right up until deadline sunday night to make sure our reporting was right and we were telling a story that is accurate, that we had covered. half of it was her telling the story and the other half of it was the larger implications. that is the big issue. that is a big, important responsibility for any journalist. we take it very seriously. we worked very hard to report it out, and so in that way it is alike to other stories we do on a regular basis. i think it fits that category in terms of difficult decisions to make. michael: how long were you working on that story, and does the checklist for broadcast ready change when the president
of the united states is involved? jeff: i like to think it doesn't, that broadcast ready, reporting and fact checking and working on our fairness and accuracy goes right up to the deadline for every story we do. obviously this one is in a different category. it is the president of the united states. it does rise to a different level, in terms of responsibility. but you know, it is the decision once you have made it. what we didn't want to do was be pressured to put it on right away. there was all kinds of speculation or is it being held, is it being prevented from air? the answer was no, it was being reported. i didn't want to be on some deadline. we want to make sure that when we put this on the air, we were ready. i feel that way about everything that we do.
it is not ready and bill has been through this in his time with 60 minutes. you know, we are not going to put it on. if that decision comes on friday or saturday that weekend, that is fine. michael: bill, talk us through the process of getting a story on air from idea to finished product. bill: it is called the process, and i heard that before i got there. the process. but you go to jeff with an idea, a story idea. we got a producer i have worked with before. you come to jeff and say if i can do a piece on howard rosenberg, sitting right here, and if jeff gives you the ok, then you come up with a budget. that is usually more howard's concern than mine, then you go do it.
and for my part, you have reams of research, reams of research. everything about el chapo, everything about his coming and going, everything about the people he has met and the drugs he has sold and the arrests and all sorts of things. reams of research, and we go out and do the interviews. these are people who can help us tell the story in a way that is both important and will hold your attention for the 14 minutes you have of their time. we report the story. we record the story, we put it together, we come back, and we show jeff and the attorneys and the communications folks and the vice presidents, and you have a whole room full of people who sit at a screening room. jeff and the leadership is at one table. the lights go down, except for
the lights above jeff and the leadership, and they are sitting there with a script watching your piece go by. jeff: writing a few notes. bill: writing a few notes. as soon as you start speaking. [laughter] michael: tonight -- [laughter] bill: and at the end of it, you talk about it. i would like to be in a position where i could tell jeff that -- as a matter of fact when i first started, i said, i am going to have a script one time that just goes straight through. you are not going to make any changes. he said that is not going to happen. [laughter] bill: but what happens is a collaborative effort. we are in there, i need less of that, more of that, this person didn't win through to me. so you work it out as a group. michael: how often do you listen to the attorney? jeff: the attorneys come in for a very late screening.
only on stories that we think require it. so probably about 20% of them are -- and they are fabulous. the job of the two lawyers who work with us is to get on the air, not to argue we shouldn't be on the air. it is limited to the stories we believe we need help from lawyers. the most important thing is fairness in terms of legal issues. if you focus on fairness throughout your process from the minute you start reporting, then that begins with not deciding what your story is for you go -- before you go out to cover it because that is one of the worst flaws of journalism. if your mind is open to be fair to everybody, and to try to capture every side of a story even if they are not cooperating with you, then you will not have legal issues. so we bring the men when is -- we bring them in when it is important and we have concerns, but it is not every time.
we have people at the screen. sometimes we have seen it five or six times. he is in charge of standards and practices. he will comment on fairness, a piece of video that he wants to know the provenance of issues like that. michael: talk about the producers. bill: the producers are sort of the heartbeat of the place. we have got, what did you say, about two dozen -- jeff: 75, 76. bill: it is a very competitive place. every producer wants his or her piece on that week, and everybody is pushing to get their piece on. they are some of the smartest people i have ever met, certainly ever worked with.
very dedicated, very smart, very -- i mean, they know how this system works. they know how television works. it is a terrific collaboration. it is a terrific elaboration. jeff: it can be very competitive but it can also be pressure from the correspondent. someone i really miss, i miss so many of those that started our broadcast -- they are all on -- they are all gone now, but mike wallace who was really tough on everybody. he walked down the hall and would say, put on a few pounds. i remember he went into the office and said, i like to do a story on willie nelson. josh said ok, fine. i will put in the idea and start working on it. but we always do hard stories. why do you want to do willie nelson? mike, he said willie nelson?
winnie nelson -- as in mandela. [laughter] bill: then in typical mike fashion, i didn't realize i had wandered into the toy department. it is that kind of pressure, there is intensity that he made fun of, and he was fun to have around, mike wallace, but everybody was on their toes and that was a big part of it. jeff: everybody is on their toes. michael: how fierce is the correspondent competition? bill: everybody wants to be on the air all the time. that is what you are there for, to do good pieces and get them on the air. so i think we are all driven to do the best we can but to be as productive as possible so you get your piece on this coming sunday. jeff: used to be known for stealing stories where a correspondent would still from
another, mostly mike wallace, and that doesn't happen anymore. but it was famous for a time. all of them have stories stolen by mike, every one of them. [laughter] michael: jeff, what for you makes a perfect 60 minutes story , as opposed to a story for another media outlet? jeff: i use the word original a lot because that matters so much to us. you know, i think when you mix that with current, i really want our stories and our broadcast to be on the news as often as possible. that is sometimes a story that you have worked on for six months. but we have known what the big stories will be, and you can really spend time working at it and planning it. we did that with the wars. we covered the wars extensively, iraq and afghanistan.
60 minutes story really has to have thorough reporting and it -- in it to feel like it belongs there. you have to feel as though you walk away from that our and say i got something -- hour and say i got something out of that. that is hard to do without the care of the reporting that goes into these stories. sometimes it takes months, but it is best when it is current even if it takes that long and feels current, and you know it is part of today's world. don't like it when we have a stockpile of stories that could run any time. but original is important. and to me it is important on a big story. el chapo was a big story. everybody knew about it. it was important because drugs are flooding into the united states because of this one man and his organization. and howard and bill and i think it was julie holstein worked so
hard to report that out and find so many original details that you didn't have another stories. -- didn't have in other stories. in a story that so many people were on, and i think that stands out as well. i like it when we are covering something everybody has covered, but we find an area that helps you better understand that story. it also took -- bill whitaker was in like 20 different tunnels. bill: more tunnels than el chapo himself. thanks to howard. michael: jeff, talk about the blessing and the curse of being the program that proved that news could both earn high ratings and profit? jeff: it was the first moment everybody realized news could be profitable on television. it was a public service before that, and we are talking about the 1970's. when 60 minutes started to take
off and money started pouring in, and everybody noticed. and i think that, that is an important reason why don hewitt is so important to us and broadcast journalism is that even when they tripped up occasionally and got carried away with the ambush, which became almost a caricature of itself as mike called it, jumping out of closet stories, that they publicly said we are tired of doing that. it is more for the drama within the story. we are going back to our basics. so we didn't change. and i think that don always said, why don't they just copy us? but you know mike, i think the other part is it is hard to copy us. one, because of the quality of people. two, because of the investment cbs continues to make in a
program the company is proud of, proud that if you just consider the story we did, we are proudest of this year, which we did a collaboration with the washington post on, opioid, the opioid epidemic and the dea having its power taken away in terms of stopping illicit opioid sales that bill worked on with ira rosen and sam hornblower, two terrific reporters from the washington post. that in and of itself makes our company proud i believe. and it is incredibly expensive to do that. it was eight months in the making, and that is a big investment for a news program, and that says a lot. so you know, i think that we could be more profitable if someone said to us, you can't spend that kind of money on your stories. you can't pay your producers that kind of money, and that
could happen if new ownership came in. it is fragile. it is worrying. but cbs gives us the resources, and that is an area that has not been cut back, and so i think that is a big part of it. once profit came in, and could have gone another way. and it didn't. and i think that is a tribute to don hewitt. michael: do certain parts of the journalistic landscape concern you on a recent caliber? the new york times executive editor said the real crisis in journalism today is the demise of our newspapers across america. you had other competitors and other networks that have fallen by the wayside, have gone back, changed their format. the competition is healthy, isn't it?
jeff: we are alone in what we do. commercial television in america. i think it is an odd environment, and i think it is odd that is the case that there is no other outlet like 60 minutes where you have a huge audience and yet you are focused on what is important. i just, i think in terms of television, i think what has happened, it is a lot. when you have news networks that are sort of putting on what they know their audience wants to hear as opposed to putting on, covering what is important and doing it in a fair way. that is problematic. i think it is even more of a problem with facebook because -- but it is the same thing. you share with people who are like you stories you know they will like. that is not healthy, and i worry
about it. cable news, fox news, msnbc has gone that way. michael: let's talk about freedom of the press and continue that part of the conversation. are you the enemy of the american people? [laughter] jeff: we are dangerous looking. bill: i actually think it is an invigorating time. if you care about covering news, real news, it is an invigorating moment. there is a lot to cover. it is exhausting. i feel for those people that have the white house as their beat, because every day brings a surprise and a difficult story to cover. but so i do think it is a challenging moment, and it is good for people and organizations that care about the news. from my own perspective, we try to get to cabinet secretaries before they get fired.
[laughter] jeff: we succeeded with rex tillerson by about three weeks, and i'm glad we tried to interview him for a long time. there is a lot to cover, mike. michael: how do you react and respond to all these attacks on your integrity? i don't mean 60 minutes necessarily. i mean all of journalism. jeff: i think attacking the press has been a favorite tool for a kind of politician going way, way back. i think this is excessive and is annoying at times. i am sure it hurts. i think that there are people, a lot of people who believe it, that the press is out to get the president or particular solve or follow a particular agenda, and so i think that is the harm in it. bill: i don't want to sound
pollyannaish, but i truly believe -- i majored in history in college and graduate school, and i truly believe in the first amendment. i believe in this experiment that we call the united states of self-government. we get to decide where we are going, how we are going to get there. we cannot do that if we don't have information. if we don't have the correct information. so i truly do believe that in the end, the truth will prevail, and it is our job to keep telling people the truth, keep telling people that this is the information you need to make a decision about this politician or this direction to go. should we do this, get into this war? americans need information, and that is what we are therefore. jeff: this comes back to your other question for me about money, about profit in
television news in particular, which is that before that happened, television news was entirely a public service. and i think that in every really caring journalist, public service is a huge part of what we do. if you are helping people better understand the story, if you are exposing something that needs to be exposed, you are doing a public service. but i don't hear that a lot in our business. i don't hear those words used much, and i think that is a problem. michael: you say we need more media literacy at this point? jeff: probably. i think that -- we are not as low in terms of opinion polls as congress, but we are pretty low. michael: that is not exactly a tribute. [laughter] jeff: i do think it is our own
fault in terms of news people. i really think that it does come to this public service part which is that there is a credibility problem because of how the news is delivered to a lot of people in their homes. michael: let's talk about the changing nature of the newsroom over the course of time. we watched a tremendous number of changes. tell us about the evolution of 60 minutes over the course of time, how it has changed, the demographic makeup of people work there has changed. jeff: it has changed a lot in terms of just the past 15 years, and that is how long i have been in charge. probably the times as well but in terms of demographics and broadcast, i think people would be surprised how young it is. i think we are known or thought of as an older program, and interestingly enough the audience is not as old as people realize. fox news audience is 15 years older than the average 60
minutes viewer. it tells you something. but the demographic of our floor is fascinating. it is 50-50 men women. we have more women in charge that -- and then we do men of our senior positions. there is i think six women and four men. and you know, we were talking to the younger group, and i was explaining that we have turned our entry-level jobs into, rather than what used to be secretaries, people who answered phones and set up plane tickets and trips, every entry-level job is a young reporter, someone who wants to be a reporter and produce stories at 60 minutes or elsewhere. and so my assistant is traveling on a story, probably working on at least two stories at once, traveling on a story tomorrow.
so that is a different sort of demographic. everybody who works at 60 minutes is a reporter at some point in their day. what i love about that is it increased our footprint in terms of how much we can find out, you know. michael: you spoke with the young members of the national press club. there are a lot of young people who will see this, students as well. given so much that just transpired, particularly over the past year, what do you say to them about the behavior expected of people in the profession? jeff: you know, we talk about it a lot especially now in terms of what we have all been through and learned about the workplace. i think that how you present
yourself, one of the most important things for our broadcast is we represent 60 minutes out in the world. you need to act accordingly. i think that that is an issue that big newspapers have a harder time with because there are so many employees representing the company. so many reporters. we have 75 reporters on our floor and six or seven of them are on the air. that is an easier more containable place. but the reputation of the broadcast is important. how you equip yourself in terms of especially fairness when you are out in the world representing us is probably the thing we focus on the most. michael: bill, talk about cultivating interviews and parameters of exclusivity when you meet with people and you
would like an exclusive interview. walk us through some of that. bill: we do often tell people we would like to hold an exclusive until the piece runs on 60 minutes. i think jeff was saying earlier that sometimes you have got interview subjects who will try to put demands on us and say, i will only tell you this, or i will not talk about that, or you might have a hollywood person who says he will only shoot me from this angle. 60 minutes you have the luxury of saying, it is all or nothing. you know, if you step into our world, we are going to ask you any and everything and once you say yes to this, then you have to be prepared for whatever comes at you. and most people make the calculation that being on 60 minutes is worth it.
my approach always is to one, treat people the way i would want them to treat me, with respect. but at the same time, you know, if you are going up against somebody you know has done something wrong, you are going to keep pressing them until you get them to admit on the air at 60 minutes that they did something wrong. you press them, and you press them again. you can do it politely or you can do it with a sledgehammer, but you are going to get it. jeff: there is a great bill in that clip where he says i am asking because i am seeking an answer. michael: you ever wonder why people would agree to do an interview with you? [laughter] jeff: everybody's nightmare. [laughter] michael: how have you begun to function differently in the
digital age? talk about the changes. jeff: i think we are fortunate that our stories play so well on a mobile device. think about it. at 15 minutes, 14 minutes, if you are in an airport and you can watch a 60 minute story on your phone, that is a perfect length. i think it is part of don hewitt's genius in that he did not have the attention span for an hour. he didn't like documentaries because he could not watch them for an hour. the idea that it would be 15 minutes is brilliant and interestingly enough that in our modern age, the tech talk is 17 minutes. so i am optimistic about our future online and all the young people that we spoke to today, i am not -- they are not making an appointment at 7:00 on television. that is over for them.
that is different. so we have been ahead of the game this way. we had an app, one of the first to have one. we have a webcast told 60 minutes overtime which has done very well. in the big picture i am optimistic because the stories play so well on your device. michael: what are some of the advantages and challenges of having more information at your fingertips than ever in history? jeff: nothing but advantage as far as collecting information, being able to have all of that information at your fingertips. it is nothing but an advantage. where it becomes problematic is where as jeff was talking earlier, you have got facebook putting out just about anything that if you like it and your friend likes it, then it becomes real whether it is or not. we are competing with that.
and it is hard to break through that noise. but as far as helping us get a handle on information, what is important and not, this new digital world is like a god interest. jeff: it is. in addition to that, the idea that people are looking for a brand they can trust, i think that in some way helps us cut through the noise that you know, if you are consistently showing people that you are doing a good job, i like to think if they watch the broadcast or see a story, i got something out of that, i will go back for more. i think the big brands that are i think the big brands that are focusing on what they do well will do well and cut through the noise. michael: what are some of your most memorable moments?
i will ask each of you the question. jeff: i get asked that so much. in terms of stories we have covered? michael: stories you have covered or challenges you have faced, that you have overcome. jeff: you know, i never stop thinking how lucky i am to be able to do what i do. i think about some of the big interviews. one that comes to mind is interviewing putin, and we were with him afterwards and had a chance to ask him if he would take assad in asylum in russia hehe had to leave syria, and rolled his eyes and said i already got snowden. >> [laughter] michael: i think we are lucky we get to have moments like that.
i think that you know there is a great picture that i love of steve kroft and i with president obama at his final week in office, literally everybody in the white house, boxes everywhere, movers literally carrying stuff out. he is like this and is saying to us, next week you are not going to take my call, are you? >> [laughter] michael: so those moments you sort of hope for, and i think, you learn from them too. i remember putin saying to us i don't care who is president. i think he was being sincere. every time you elect a president, democrat or republican, from my perspective it is the same person. they all end up doing the same thing, accusing us of the same things, acting the same way in the world. i found that interesting. michael: how about yourself? bill: i have in the 3.5 years i
have been up there, i have had the good fortune to cover such a variety of stories, from russians going to syria to help the syrians in their civil war to help the government in their civil war, to the opioid epidemic. through el chapo, to a profile of jennifer lawrence and one of denzel washington. i have been lucky enough to have just a wide array of experiences there. it is really difficult to put your finger on one and say this one was the most memorable, but i will try. there was a piece we did about a black gentleman who had spent 30 years on death row in solitary confinement, was found after 30 years to be innocent, not guilty of the crime of murder, was
released by the state of louisiana and given a $25 gift card. and a pat on the back. when he went into prison, there were no gift cards. he was looking at this thing like what is this? he was able to get a meal, kicking, -- meal, chicken, and thera, sweet tea, card was gone. that is it. and the clip we had here was talking to the prosecutor and saying, don't you owe this guy something more than a pat on the back and a $25 gift card? he is like, we let him out of jail, we did our job. nothing from "60 minutes," nothing from that report came of that story. it is just that i wanted us to see that this is what we are
doing, what is being done in our name. somebody is imprisoned for 30 years, solitary confinement and he gets a gift card at the end doing, what is being done in our of it and we are the ones doing it. i thought it was important that we know. jeff: it touched everybody too. michael: who are your dream interviews? who would you love to sit down with? jeff: i put the pope first on of it and we are the ones doing. i think this is a remarkable pope, and i think that we still have not really heard him talk about what emitters about -- about what he cares about most, what he believes in most. i think he is number one. you talk about world leaders and you never know what you will get. so it is hard to put xi of china on the list. i don't know if or we could to get-- know if what we could
would be a good interview to have. i think the pope is so thoughtful and interesting, that is my choice. michael: i just heard that xi is not going to make it, but he would have been on my list. michelle obama, would you guys -- i would like to pick her brain. michael: have you asked? bill: not directly. but if you are listening. >> [laughter] michael: there you go. jeff, over the course of time, there have been some stories that have gone awry. talk about lessons learned for the long haul, big tobacco, benghazi? benghazi? jeff: those are two good examples, very different. the big tobacco was -- and i write about it in the book that i have written, probably the lowest point up until then, and that is around year 30. the company says you cannot hear
air a story that is probably the most important story that has come in. mike wallace and lowell bergman working on it with deb deluca. the idea that nicotine, they knew that nicotine is the addictive force to get you to smoke, and they were enhancing it is just -- imagine. the idea that the company would shut it down and we still debate why? was it because the family had interest in tobacco, was it because cbs was on the verge of being sold to westinghouse? was it interfering with someone's agreement not to say anything derogatory about the company they work for after they left? which sort of seems to pale in comparison to the public health at stake in that case. so that story was devastating and in some ways the damages,
one of the young journalists asked a great question today, what does that do to the morale of the place? it is unsettling. it can bring great harm to individual relationships, and it did. i think it hurt us in the long run. it was a rough patch. benghazi is a very different story in the sense that it is a did. i think it hurt us in the long run. self-inflicted wound, and i am not sure what don hewitt could have done to make the tobacco thing better except be tougher with the company, and that was his biggest regret. i wish i had just told them, go to hell, this story has to go on. benghazi is an example of someone who is lying to us. lying to us from a conflict zone , which is always difficult because there is not enough verifying that goes on when someone lies in a conflict or
exaggerates, and in this case it was someone who claimed to be in it and was making up stories. we believed to embellish his book which was coming out. number of lessons there. one, i don't believe that team we had was trying to follow a preconceived notion -- maybe a little bit of that. that worries me about a mistake. we had was trying to follow a that can infect any story you are working on if you believe it is going to end in a certain place. but i also think that if you are not skeptical enough when it comes right down to a story as important as that, you know, you will get in trouble. the rest of the story was reported well. it was -- there were some incredibly interesting details,
but it was ruined and tainted and should be because those lies that were broadcast. michael: i would like to engage in a quick lightning round here on the legend and longevity of correspondence over the years. if you would both just tell me what comes to mind when i mention these people's names. start with mike wallace. jeff: wonderful prick. >> [laughter] michael: ayatollah khomeini. jeff: bob simon. delightful, incredible, look what he did. michael: great writer. michael: ed bradley. jeff: coolest man on earth. michael: lesley stahl.
jeff: deft reporter, hardest working woman i know. bill: hard-working. i mean, she is in early -- yes, the hardest working person. michael: andy rooney. jeff: oh, curmudgeon for sure. loved being andy rooney on and off the air. loved him myself and miss him so much. bill: i miss so many things that he hated, that i hated too. >> [laughter] n andyl: i love to tell a rooney story. michael: sure. jeff: andy loved to party. he was always at a party and always had his maker's mark on the rocks. and i remember being with him once when they didn't have makers at a bar, and he said, they never have the bourbon you want. >> [laughter] jeff: we were at the super bowl. i can't remember how far back, but we were at a party at the super bowl and i said, andy, you got to meet this guy bruce, come over.
i said this is bruce, he is the cfo of the cbs television network. he is the guy who signs your check every single week. he is the guy responsible for all that money at cbs. without looked at him losing a beat and said, well, nobody is perfect. >> [laughter] andy rooneyld the story today, and he was that way always. bill: i will share two quick ones with you. when the actor george c scott passed away, and we were producing a cbs news weekend roundup and and he was on the program with us, he refused to talk about george c scott. why? because he hated general george patton and, by association, scott.d george c.
and the other was the memorial in new york for the great first anchor in american broadcasting, robert trout.and the other was l in new york for the great first there was a beautiful service. i looked back and andy was sitting about three pews behind. i happened to look back after standing up and sitting down, and he as gone. -- standing up and sitting down, and he was gone. afterwards, i asked him whether he had left. he said, "this got so boring that i went across the street to the bookstore and signed copies of my book and then came back." >> [laughter] michael: scott pelley. jeff: dedicated, great reporter and writer. bill: and solid, solid reporter. michael: steve croft. jeff: i think the best all-around reporter-storyteller that ever worked there. bill: i am going to run out of
superlatives, but the writing is just riveting. michael: diane sawyer. jeff: great interviewer. i think an amazing fit for "60 minutes," but wanted to move on. michael: anderson cooper. jeff: the best, i love him, he's so good. bill: incredible range. he can cover anything. think he handled the stormy daniels thing pretty well. bill: who could forget the 100 foot wave over the crocodiles? jeff: delightful. incredibly curious and a natural reporter, which is interesting. i don't think most would describe her that way, but being the only boss she has ever had,
that's what i see. >> bill: she came in, i got an oprah hug. michael: you are going to get more hugs after the program now. let me ask you this -- bill whitaker. jeff: absolute joy. i'm going to say even though he is right here, if not the best, probably one of the best hires i ever made. he hit the ground running and he has been an amazing addition to our broadcast. michael: jeff baker. bill: this is not just because he is sitting here. the best boss i've ever had. michael: "60 minutes" is alive and well. how do you sustain this program? do the first 50 years even count at this point? jeff: jesus, i don't know, i am losing track. i think it should be sustained with those things i talked
about that are so important one, , we stay current and relevant, so you know you're going to get something that helps you understand today's world every sunday night. two, that we hold on to those values that we cherish so much. bill: but you know you are standing on the shoulders of giants, but each week is new and different. and more opportunity to keep on doing this. michael: our time is up for this portion of the program. let us end where we began with the "60 minutes" creator don hewitt, who said not following the herd is one of the things that has made us so successful. people watch us because they they will hear stories they have not heard everywhere else. the only way to rise above the pack is to not be part of it.
gentlemen, we hope that, for many more years to come, you will be able to tell me a story. thank you. bill: thank you, mike, very much. >> [applause] michael: thank you. now, it is time to open it up to your questions. we would ask that you please move to the microphones. there are two microphones and we will alternate between the two. your questions. i would ask that you would please identify yourself and that you ask a question. we always ask that you do not deliver speeches. >> i am robin phillips. bill, both you and jeff said that you agree you were hired in spite of this dreadful story. what was it? bill: [laughter] it was a story about how
colleges were deciding not to use sat scores for admission purposes, and to let students come in with essays and interviews and that sort of thing. i was working on the west coast. use sat scores for admission our deadline on the west coast is 3:30 in the afternoon. we got launched on this story at had to drivend about an hour outside of los angeles to get to the college that had agreed to let us in. we had about an hour to put the piece together, to do the interviews, to write it, to send it back. i think the editor got the piece -- as i said, we went on at 3:30 west coast time. i think the editor got the video -- as i said, we went on at 3:3e were the second piece in the broadcast. it was one of those times you want to tell people in new york, you just got it, you are welcome.
>> i'm arthur jones ii, a news associate here in washington for the cbs evening news. it is an honor to be in this room with everyone today. don hewitt always said, tell me a story. in the last 50 years, what are the types of stories you haven't told yet? jeff: i like to think that we've told almost every kind of story. we like there to be a mix. we like there to be news value, but we also like adventures, we like to take people places that they can't go otherwise. sometimes, an adventure is right in front of you.
it is an interesting thing. there's something about news snobbery, which is that there it is an interesting thing. are certain stories that are somehow beneath us. i don't believe in that, and don didn't believe in that. for a long time, 60 minutes are certain stories that are somehow beneath us. i don't believe in that, and don didn't believe in that. for a long time, 60 minutes didn't do an o.j. simpson story. that wasn't because of some, are certain stories that are somehow beneath us. well we are doing o.j. simpson stories --that was because one had not come around that was worth it, until we did it. so i'm not sure i can think of some kind of a story we haven't done. bill: that is the gift of news, that there is always something you have not done coming down the pike, some body, some story, some event we have not done because it hasn't happened yet, but we will be there. >> i am eileen street from nbc news desk assistant program here in d.c. as someone who is just starting their journalism career, you
both obviously love reporting, you love storytelling, love writing, but why, jeff, did you choose the career of producer versus correspondent or reporter and then why did you, bill, choose correspondent versus the career of a producer? michael: -- jeff: it is interesting, i never had the desire to be on air. i was into adventure. i was an english major that got a job at a tv station, it was like the lowest form of life. i used to look up to the interns. i started writing news for free at the radio station. that was my beginning. interns. i started writing news for free i think -- i was in boston and i felt like -- i like this, it is working for me. i started producing broadcasts and went to the network when i was 27 to produce the overnight
show, between between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. i never really thought about being on the air and now i kind of like being the boss of people on the air. 6:00 a.m. i never really thought about being on the air and now i kind of like being the boss of people on the air. >> [laughter] bill: i have cousins who tell me, when i was little, i used to get a stick and hold it up like a microphone. i don't remember that but all of them do, so i could go on the air with that story. i started off as a producer. i was a producer in public television in san francisco. i liked it. as a matter of fact, i think having done that helps me do what i do now better. i, unlike jeff, always did want to be on camera. i don't know why. i don't know what the motivation and the drive is, but it was something i always wanted to do. i just love this. not necessarily the on camera
stuff, but the storytelling, the collaboration, going into el chapo's tunnels, meeting all these people, talking to movie stars and criminals, i just loved it. jeff: i tell young people that you should make that decision early, because you need 10,000 hours on how to be good on television as well as how to report stories if you are going to take that route. minutes"ood at "60 because he has been doing it so much and has so much practice that it looks so easy and natural, but it's because he has worked so hard at it. being on camera is not easy. it does require a lot of experience to be good at it. michael: thank you. let's go over here. >> good evening. thank you for coming tonight. my name is joshua. i'm a former student of professor friedman's. thank you for coming out to talk.
have a kind of broad question. i'm going to try to reel it in. you touched briefly on social media, how it has created a polarization in news because people see exactly what they want to see because of the way you touched briefly on social the algorithms are built. i'm wondering, for you guys, what is your opinion based off the mission and vision you have for "60 minutes," what is your opinion on how you should grow in the digital media landscape? is there a place for "60 minutes" to purchase advertisers to try to get in front of people? do you think you need to increase your content on gift to -- do you think you need to increase your content on various platforms to break through the polarization? how you see "60 minutes" taking over the digital news landscape? jeff: very carefully. the most important thing i worry about for "60 minutes" is that we don't water down what we do best, and don't change it to
work somewhere else. i really do believe that what i said earlier, that we will play well into play well in the digital world, doing what we do best. we has expanded into other areas from time to time. it always comes back to the mothership. being what we should focus our attention on so it doesn't wander. i really do believe in it being fragile. think that i'm not as worried about where our content gets delivered. i'm much more concerned about how we put it together. >> my name is ned barker. i work at the associated press. i have a question about the blending of entertainment and news and the blending of politics as well as journalism. we see former politicians such as joe scarborough, who used to
be in office and becomes an anchor, or we see brian williams who is an anchor on late-night television, and tells tall tales and seems to diminish the credibility of nbc news. what sort of problems and impact do you see of the blending of the what sort of problems and and j? if you were to write rules for the industry to try to protect entertainment, politics,the industry against ps being journalists or journalists being entertainers, what would that be? jeff: that's a tough one. i would hate to judge people that way. i don't think joe scarborough keeps it secret. we have oprah winfrey, who has a history of entertaining. i actually think that we have been concerned in the past about revolving doors that way.
we had one of my favorite correspondents of all time that i hired at cbs news, john miller, who is now with the nypd. unbelievably talented correspondent. aboutk it is much more people in positions of authority to make sure that those transitions -- you are not mixing the two experiences. john miller isn't here reporting for cbs news and also doing something with the fbi. he has made that transition, and people around him are making sure of it. i feel lucky to have oprah. we have been criticized for it. i don't care. i think she adds something to "60 minutes" when
she comes on that makes us better. she hasn't come to "60 minutes," saying, we are going to do things my way. she has come to the show sayings i want to do things your way. i think that is any -- i think that distinction is important. bill: the media landscape that we have today contains all of those elements you are talking about -- the entertainment, the blending of news and entertainment. i want to do things your way. but i come back around to -- when someone tells me they are sick of the media and i say, what does that mean? you go all the way from the national enquirer to the new york times, it is all the media. i really think that it is kind of incumbent upon the news consumer to differentiate. there is really good news out there. there is more news out there today than ever before. i must admit people are being bombarded by it and can't really tell what to pay attention to and what not to. but i know some place like "60
minutes" is a place where you will get real news. some major newspapers, you will get real news. but it is incumbent upon us to do a little bit of work. you can't just sit in your chair at 5:30 in the afternoon and be fed a half hour of news from any source and think you are an informed citizen of a democracy. you have to do a little work at michael: why don't we try and get all four of you and, if you can keep the questions short. >> i'm a journalist from missouri. my question, when you are approaching a huge and complicated topic like the opioid crisis or syrian civil war, how do you parse down all your thoughts and turn it into a coherent narrative that is interesting to watch? jeff: it is something we work
hard at. a huge part of what we avoid is talking down to our audience or underestimating them. you know more about your story then anybody who is listening or watching. remember that as well. look, one ofhat, the great things about "60 minutes," and i think any good journalistic organization, is you have the time to thoroughly report your story. as a producer, you know it better. as a correspondent, you know it better than anybody else. that happens at "60 minutes." part of it is the responsibility of, you have to know your story so well. but, at the same time, we really feel strongly about taking that narrow path and not covering an issue. because when that happens, it is 15 minutes and we feel like we're just scratching the
surface. >> i am a scientist and i recently joined the press club because i have been increasingly commentating in the news on science stories. we know that scientists aren't always concise. that being said, i find it difficult to relay some of the science that is relevant for listeners. my question is, when you have a a format that is long enough and a foresight to know you have slow-moving, future events that might not be able to be told in shorter segments, where does "60 minutes" see its vision and strategy in relaying some of these stories, like climate change, that sort of thing? jeff: climate change is a good example. we have done a number of stories beginning with core sample studies that we began doing in the year 2002, scott pelley and bill owens.
we care about science stories, and we try to stay on top of them. that was the early days, the climate change study. those core samples showed a significant change in the past 50 years compared to one million years. that became important reporting. but, at the same time, i've loved our stories about elon musk. sometimes, it is driven by an incredible character who, like elon musk, is just such a brilliant entrepreneur and visionary. so, i think it is interesting, the different subsets of stories like business, science, sports, you find ways to tell the stories that are compelling and
interesting. by the way, that is the discipline from our perspective on every story we choose to do, figure out how to tell it well and get the audience interested. >> my name is jennifer. bill, i wonder if you could tell us how you attack an interview? what is your strategy going into a big interview, in terms of how you will order your questions? what is your game plan when you go into a big interview? jeff, i wonder if any reporters have brought you a great idea ever, that you said no to, that still haunts you today? [laughter] jeff: stormy daniels, almost. [laughter] bill: yes, i heard you didn't want to do that at the very beginning. jeff: i did not. bill: it is a collaborative
effort and you are working with the producers to come up with an approach to your interview subject. what is it we want to get from this person? we come up with a whole host of questions we want to ask the interview subject. but, as jeff was saying, you can't go into it wanting an outcome. you go into it and let the story tell itself. you start talking to somebody -- you might have a list of questions but a person might give you an answer that you didn't expect. you have to be flexible enough to catch that and move in that direction. oh, this is different, i didn't expect that. this is moving in a different direction. let's go there. jeff: the other question is, is there a story that i turned down? i'm sure there are several. we had a rule at "60 minutes," which is that if i say no and bill owens, my number two says
no to your story idea, it comes in the paper form, a blue sheet, we are not going to write an nation for wide. otherwise, that's all we would -- a nation for why we said no. -- we are not going to write an explanation for why we said no. otherwise, that is all we would be doing. but, everybody knows that, if they feel really strongly about a story that has been rejected, they can come in to fight for it. when of my favorite things when i say no to a story, and someone comes in to fight for it, and it's brilliant. that happens a knot. lot. >> what is your biggest memory of the interview with putin or any other leader around the world? jeff: putin, oh, my gosh. i guess what i remember even more than putin was about assad. it was in the same year that we interviewed assad. it was chilling because, in
essence, in response to questions about their role -- about barrel bombs, his answer was, this is war. what difference does it make how people die? and it was also in response in the same area, to a question about, did he learn from his father that he could use chemical weapons? the whole area was, what difference does it make? that stuck with me, that war is war, the weapons don't really matter. host: bill? thoughts? bill: i can't remember, at least for "60 minutes," i haven't done a foreign leader. jeff: why the hell not? bill: i don't know! [laughter]
>> the russian general. michael: thank you for your question. [laughter] ed murrow once said, to be persuasive, we have to be believable. to be believable, we have to be credible. to be credible, we must be truthful. these guiding principles of good journalism are as relevant today as they were in his time. thank you both for carrying on in the murrow tradition. [applause] [both thanking him] just one second, and we will wrap this up. as tokens of our appreciation tonight, we have, for each of you, a book entitled "in search of light," which is a compilation of ed murrow's cbs radio broadcasts from 1938-1961, which we hope you will enjoy.
here you go. also, our national press club coffee mugs, which we hope we will see on your desks in new york as you enjoy reading the book. [laughter] special thanks to lindsay mckechnie, andew others from cbs news. thanks to the headliners, the history and heritage and young members teams at the press club for their cosponsorship of the program. thanks for this wonderful audience here at the national press club. a huge thanks to jeff and bill for coming down to new york and desko for tonight's program. just some quick previews of coming attractions at the press club. april 4, sheila tate and her new biography of nancy reagan. april 12, a luncheon with senator sherrod brown. on the pension crisis. april 16, we have a report on
announcer: on sunday, hillary clinton's remarks about the 2016 election, russian influence in the u.s. elections, the current political climate and america's role in the world. that is at 1130 eastern on c-span. ,unday night on afterwards south carolina republican and treyim scott gowdy, discuss their friendship and time in congress. they will be interviewed by south carolina senator jim
demint. >> when you have dinner with tray, rarely is the occasion that someone doesn't stop, who is not from here, and thank him for his service. this is just a fun experience, but it is also meaningful and a look intoto take his cranial cavity about the perspective he takes on the really important issues, and you will find very quickly that while he may be branded a partisan at times, the truth of the matter is that his memory object is truth. whatever works for you, good. if it works against you? he is sorry. he wants the truth. i am thankful to have built a great friendship with some of his more -- someone who is more interested in the truth that he is in winning. >> something that complementry
was written about senator scott in a blog and it was frankly libelous. can i reached the end, i said, we are not going to put up with this anymore. i marched down to his office and went right past the scheduler and i said, i am going into cm. i said, we're going to do something about this. you cannot allow people to say this and do nothing about it. he closed the door. i said, this is going to be good. and he said, we are going to pray for him. and i said to him, i love you, but am not praying for him. and he said, well, you sit here with me and i will we had and he prayed. there are not many people who would do that. announcer: watch on sunday night at 9:00 eastern on c-span's book tv. commentator william
f buckley, founder of the national review magazine died in 2008. to mark the 10th anniversary of his passing, the national review institute hosted a symposium on buckley's legacy. and the future of conservatism. this is 45 minutes. 45 minutes. >> our final panel of the afternoon. there is no chance for me to be on the first panel of people who shared deep personal interests of bill buckley. i realized there was a zero chance bill buckley what share my passion for our national pastime. bill was once invited to a baseball game by a friend and said, no thanks, i've already been to one. [laughter]