27 Influential Years of 60 Minutes

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Journalism/Media/Television
27 Influential Years of 60 Minutes

27 Years of Influential 60 Minutes
Since 1968 America has been better enlightened than
previously concerning current events and happenings around
the world. A considerable factor for this occurrence is the
television program 60 Minutes which debuted on the air in
September of 1968. Many other television newsmagazines have
been produced since its creation, however none have
possessed the longevity nor the influence of 60 Minutes. In
fact, 60 Minutes, which is owned by CBS News, was the first
regular network news program to cover actual stories as
opposed to topics. Today, similar newsmagazines can be seen
every night of the week on various stations, all of which
were sparked by the inception of 60 Minutes. All of the
tabloid television programs being shown today are also a
result of 60 Minutes and its bold, gutsy, "gotcha" style of
television journalism. 60 Minutes changed the way that the
American public receives its television news, stemming forth
a whole new format of television broadcast journalism.
60 Minutes has a vast history of stories covered, yet
the format has remained unchanged. Don Hewett, creator and
producer of 60 Minutes, has been the subject of much
criticism for his stubbornness. Since its origin, 60
Minutes has continued to adhere to the same formula that
made it such a success. The hidden-camera interviews, the
surprising of unsuspecting alleged crooks with a bombardment
of questions, the longevity of the featured reporters, all
of these are what made 60 Minutes a success--finishing in
the top 10 Nielson ratings for 17 consecutive seasons and
counting. Other than the fact that it changed from black-
and-white to color with the new technology, the appearance
of 60 Minutes has remained consistent. There is no reason
to change a thing about such a prosperous show according to
Hewitt. Not only has the format remained constant but the
reporters have as well. Mike Wallace, and Harry Reasoner
both appeared on the first episode of 60 Minutes. Reasoner,
who passed away in 1991, left CBS in 1970 to pursue a news
anchoring position at ABC but later returned to 60 Minutes,
in 1978, until his death. Wallace and Morley Safer, who
started in 1970, are still featured reporters as well as Ed
Bradley (who joined the team in 1981) and newcomers Lesley
Stahl and Steve Kroft. 60 Minutes would not be the same
without the weekly commentary of Andy Rooney. Rooney
started making a regular appearance in 1978 offering
humorous, sometimes controversial annotations about everyday
life. A well known prime time TV news anchor who did much
of his best work at 60 Minutes is Dan Rather. When Rather
joined the other prestigious journalists he had a reputation
as a tough, aggressive reporter; in other words, he fit in
perfectly. Rather left in 1981 to takeover The CBS Evening
News, leaving with him a hard-nosed investigator who would
do whatever it took to capture the whole story. All of
these factors combined to form a one-of-a-kind TV
newsmagazine with solid ratings; clones were destined to
follow.
Following in the wake of success, many spin-offs were
created in an attempt to grab a piece of the action. There
were many reasons for following the suite of 60 Minutes and
not many reasons not to. The biggest incentive (in the eyes
of the other network executives) for striving to reproduce
60 Minutes was the substantial amount of revenue created by
this program. 60 Minutes requires a remarkably less amount
of money to produce than a situation comedy. And because
the CBS network owns the show, these were earnings that went
straight to the corporation. 60 Minutes has turned out to
be quite a goldmine for CBS because the program has not only
brought in the highest profit of any other show in history,
but most of all their other shows combined. It comes as no
surprise that other networks dived into the newsmagazine
business. Some of the more notable programs to cash in on
the new format for broadcasting news include Prime Time
Live, 20/20, and Entertainment Tonight. Entertainment
Tonight branched off into a less newsworthy, more Hollywood
scene which later set the pace for PM Magazine, and most
recently A Current Affair and Hard Copy. None of the listed
newsmagazines would exist had it not been for the creation
of 60 Minutes.
The new style of journalism that 60 Minutes 
incorporated went on to set a new standard for reporters
everywhere. High ratings are the key to success in the
television news business and 60 Minutes gave the viewing
public what it craved--shocking interviews and
investigations which led to the uncovering of crooks,
terrorists, and swindlers. Witnessing doors being slammed
in a reporter's face became customary to the show. Before
1968 the nightly news would simply broadcast headlines; 
comparable to reading a newspaper. But 60 Minutes became a
television newsmagazine offering the reader revealing, on
camera stories about happenings around the world. Viewers
of the show became better informed as to actual business,
political, and science practices. Howard Stringer,
president of CBS Broadcast Group, says that "60 Minutes 
invented a new genre of television programming-the
newsmagazine-and in the process had a dramatic impact on the
television industry and the viewing habits of the American
people." Stringer's comment is very true because if one
were to scan through a TV index today, they would see that
nearly all channels are infested with talk shows, tabloid
programs, interview shows of famous personalities, and other
"caught on tape" types of programs, all of which derived
elements from 60 Minutes. Given that 60 Minutes set a new
standard for presenting the public with ground-breaking
stories, creator and producer of the show, Don Hewitt, says
"It's what you hear more often than what you see that holds
your interest. The words you hear and not the pictures you
see are essentially what 60 Minutes is all about." The
shows that were influenced by 60 Minutes, such as the many
tabloid programs being shown today, built off the 60 Minutes 
principle and created gossip, and shocking video segments. 
Still other shows, including the interview programs,
borrowed from 60 Minutes' method of grilling the
interviewee. Dan Rather once (in an interview with
President Nixon during his downfall) riled up Nixon enough
to prompt the question "Are you running for something?" And
Rather shot back, "No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?"
Tough reporting, taped evidence of scams, and in-depth
stories of current events are essentially what brought 60
Minutes much success. The use of hidden-camera reporting,
catching wrong-doers on tape, was, and still is common
practice. Today, we turn on the television and are flooded
with shows featuring the same reporting techniques as 60
Minutes. 60 Minutes keeps its viewers up to date on
current events with the same tough reporting methods. Most
recently 60 Minutes covered the tragic Oklahoma City
bombing and featured an interview with President Clinton. 
Following the bombing report a story about the Michigan
Militia (who are believed to have played a part in this
terrorist act) was aired. Coverage of these right-wing
extremists brought much insight into who these militia
groups are and what they are all about. 60 Minutes is a
valuable resource for understanding what is happening in the
United States and globally. Other networks caught on quick
that shocking news stories are what the people want, and
while 60 Minutes offers revealing stories, they avoid the
tabloid reports. The tabloid television newsmagazines were
created using the same techniques that made 60 Minutes so
unique, however, they go for the Hollywood scene reporting
on the latest gossip, and O.J. Simpson trial updates. Every
aspect of Simpson dominates the current tabloid programs
essentially proving that the American public wants actual
stories instead of fiction.
A few programs have successfully incorporated the 60
Minutes brand of reporting. The ABC television program
20/20 first aired in 1978, and still today it is regarded
as a quality news source. Frontline is a top-notch PBS
regular documentary that has been around since 1983. 
Entertainment Tonight has found much success with its brand
of news as well. Several new newsmagazines are coming out
of the woodwork such as Dateline NBC, Day One, and Eye to
Eye with Connie Chung, but time is the true test for an
accomplished television program. 
By setting new journalistic standards, 60 Minutes was
able to influence all other news programs to follow. Many
newsmagazines have come and gone through the years
proceeding 60 Minutes' inception, all of which borrowed
something along the way. Today more than ever it is easy to
see that people want real world stories, and the television
newsmagazine provides this for the viewer complete with
unbelievable video footage and ground-breaking stories. 60
Minutes invented this form of service for the public and
they have received proper recognition for this. The crew of
correspondents, producers, directors, and technical staff
have been honored with virtually every major award in
broadcasting, including: 42 Emmy Awards, 6 George Foster
Peabody Awards, 2 George Polk Memorial Awards, 10 Alfred I.
duPont/Columbia University Awards, and 1 Christopher Award. 
Some say for the better, others say for the worse, but
nevertheless it is undisputed that 60 Minutes introduced a
new form of television broadcasting news which affected that
entire industry and even today is looked at as a benchmark
for quality news coverage.