Fifty Years of 60 Minutes Book Review

Fifty Years of 60 Minutes 

The book Fifty Years of 60 minutes has truly encouraged and inspired me in my everyday life, as well as in pursuing my passion to become a journalist. Written by former director or 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager, his book highlights the most memorable moments of the show’s history. “We are more current now than we were in past years but the values and the standards that we live by are the same as they were during the time that the first broadcast of 60 Minutes aired in 1968,” explained Jeff Fager. 

This book is an accurate representation of how to successfully produce a long running news broadcast. I thoroughly enjoyed the structure of the book because it showed many real-life examples of how interviewing can be crucial to getting a factual story out to the public. The broadcast did an amazing job at displaying essential components to shape stories by providing insight from great interviews and the ones that were not always a smooth sit-down conversation. I learned many techniques that I can carry in my back pocket of journalistic information, like the best ways to avoid libel and defamation.  

I also got major insight on how to properly conduct interviews. I felt inspired with a stronger level of confidence that will help me as I move further in my career of conducting my own interviews from now on. 60 Minutes implemented concepts of deploying deception in their broadcast, and I saw a correspondence of the use of investigative journalism to obtain truthful and accurate stories for the audience to receive as unbiased information. Journalists follow absolute ethics where they believe that people should always tell the truth; under this ethic, it is crucial for journalists to consider situational ethics because ethical decisions should be made case-by-case depending on each story.  

I appreciate the ideas that the broadcast has adapted to converge media so that it continues to grow and accumulate innovative ideas and concepts. Constantly evolving even in a newsroom is important to keep the broadcast as relevant as possible. Time has changed tremendously since the start of the broadcast; from audiences adapting to television news to grasping the concept of media convergence. 60 Minutes has had such a long lasting and successful broadcast because it has adapted to the changes to keep the broadcast as relevant as possible.  

  I knew this book was the perfect choice for me because I was not aware of how crucial 60 Minutes has been in shaping journalism today. I quickly realized how important it was for me to truly soak in all the information that this book contained so I can be the best I can be within this field. After catching my attention at the start of the book, I like how Fager set up the story line because it gave in depth explanations of emotions and ideas to replicate exactly how it was during the initial moment. Each topic of discussion included recorded audio from every major interview that the franchise encountered, making this a wonderful way to structure the book to grasp the reader’s attention to see each key factor that contributed to the success of 60 minutes.  

60 minutes was created during a transitional period for the world. Television news was the least utilized and trusted way of obtaining information. During the early 1980s, many felt hesitant to fully commit to convergence. Steve Kroft, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl, Bill Whitaker are all the original correspondents of 60 minutes and are the major contributors for carrying a crucial role in converging television news that shaped American history. 60 minutes is the longest running broadcast known in television history, created by a man said to have a short attention span, John Hewitt. He felt inspired by the boring hour-long documentaries, so he wanted to apply his innovative ideas to amplify the productivity of television news. Hewitt believed that any story worth telling could be done in a shorter period of ten or fifteen minutes, which was the common way to share news in today’s time.  

This book is a celebration of Don’s excessively big decision to take a blind leap of faith by presenting his, not knowing currently, remarkably successful idea. This book inspires me to pay attention and encourages me to be persistent in writing profile stories. Author of this book, Jeff Fager outlines the profile of the 60 minutes franchise. I genuinely enjoyed the layout of the book because it incorporated outtakes and backstage footage that you have never seen before in the original broadcast or interview release covering a major story in American history. The franchise’s followed a formula for covering a relevant story that could be reported in 60 minutes: keep it timely, keep it relevant and strive too never be dull. “When we cover a story and report it on Sunday night and it has an impact on Monday morning, that’s what you hope for.” 

Many journalists rely on rituals that help create an unbiased story for the broadcast. It can be tricky for Journalist to focus on the present story at hand, in turn, this makes it easier to forget the actual context that the story itself contains. For a story to be balanced, journalists cannot be one sided in obtaining the information that builds the story. When interviewing leaders or heads of institutions, journalists should act as adversaries toward them to remain neutral to the story. Research is a systematic process for journalists to seek answers to challenging questions and understand phenomena. Relying on systematic research can help minimize or eliminate prejudice and bias, this is the process that the 60 Minutes broadcast followed.  

My hopes for this book were completely satisfied. I initially felt that the book would display many examples of knowledge by personal experience because personal experience ties to direct knowledge; this leads to skewed perceptions or even worse, misconceptions. After reading, I found way more interesting bits of interesting information that I can carry with me throughout my journalism career. 

Behind the scenes footage was kept showing the first television news broadcast that began with Harry Reasoner getting rid of a cigarette. Under the circumstances of living in the 60s, Don Hewitt liked everything but the way that Mike was sitting on camera. I found this interesting because Hewitt makes a valid point that shows the difference between a good and great anchor. Although Hewitt was not in full favor of their first broadcast, it set the tone for what is to come for the audience.  

In the 60-minute newsroom, Hewitt is known for getting exactly what he wanted. He was a brilliant man who was a great storyteller, ran this broadcast for thirty-six consecutive years, influencing years of how the broadcast was presented. 60 Minutes captured Richard Nixon and friends watching the vote at the Republic Convention, which later gave him the nomination to become the President of the United States. Famous words by Nixon on his values, not only as president, but most importantly in everyday life. The most important thing about a public man is not whether he is loved or disliked, but by whether he is respected. Nixon expressed his hope to restore respect to the presidency at all levels by his conduct. This was only the beginning of history where presidents have given questions to the broadcast as well. 

60 minutes has won hundreds of Emmy awards and twenty Peabody awards, making it easily recognizable as History’s Most Successful Program. The broadcast was created with the purpose of being a televised version of a magazine. The original broadcast had a bumpy start in 1968; on air every other week on Tuesday and bouncing around testing different days and times because of how new the broadcast was in the public eye.  

Television is commonly referred to as an electric window on the world and a feast for the eyes. Television news makes it easier for everyone to witness important and breaking events in real time. Television plays a major role in verifying the story for the public to understand and trust. The core of every great episode of 60 Minutes includes three long form news stories, commercial breaks, and interview segments. The broadcast introduces every story in a setting with a backdrop resembling pages from a magazine story with the same topic being reported.  

Reporter Scott Pelley spent two weeks at ground zero to report continuously for the broadcast. Sharing the agony of firefighters digging to find an alive body, showing mountains of misery. Pelley’s continuous dedication to the broadcast displays the common goal that the broadcast followed to provide truthful and reliable information.  The terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11 gave the 60 Minutes franchise two decades of dangerous assignments to cover in the endless cycle of violence and terrorism with the Middle East.  

War correspondent, Lara Logan covered Iraq and Afghanistan for 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II for 16 years. Logan said, “we were there just a few minutes before you heard “car bomb, car bomb”. And you know it means suicide car bomb… And everyone is shooting because the only thing that can stop that vehicle reaching its target is a hail of gunfire. And it’s terrifying.” The car explosion occurred just fifty feet from the 60 Minutes crew who took shelter in house that was commandeered by Iraqi special forces. The war spiked a tremendous number of refugees by land and sea.  

There are important rules for conducting interviews for 60 Minutesespecially during instances where a professional, controversial person or situation comes to the surface. Reporter for 60 Minutes, Ed Bradley stated in a statement in 2001, “My job is to put someone in the chair and get them to talk and tell their story as if there are no cameras, no lights, not seven people in the room. Just the two of us sitting there talking.” 60 Minutes has covered a fair share of exposure ranging from small to very large. Mike Wallace, one of the original correspondents for 60 Minutes, was the pioneer for confronting the bad guy to get a good story. “Track ’em down, follow them into the office or into a barroom or whatever,” said Mike Wallace who interviewed a wide range of prominent newsmakers during his seven-year career. The broadcast tried their best to avoid stories that could involve ambushes and hidden cameras, unless it was the only alternative to get the story.  

Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes Correspondent, was there stating, “It was an extraordinary thing to witness… so many of them were just exhausted and afraid. People drown on the way over all the time. They’re buried in unmarked graves and to die without your name being known in a foreign land and your family doesn’t even know what happened to you, to me, that’s – an unspeakable tragedy.” The thought of being a reporter during this time made me realize how important it was to stay true to statistical research, even while reporting for a broadcast overseas.  

For example, a cruel scam selling fake stem cells cures devastating illnesses. Scott Pelley pressed during an interview with Larry Stowe. As an alleged con man who sold biochemical garbage that he later distributed into people’s veins and taking thousands of dollars from them. This story helped justice to be served; Stowe is now serving a six-year sentence in a federal prison. 

After studying theories, I dove deeper into how to explain and predict differing types of communication studies. It is important for journalists to implement theories to tie communication research together in efforts to build knowledge and progress with each story. As a journalism student, I found Framing Theory most interesting, especially after finding a connection to the theory in my book 50 Years of 60 Minutes. In the Framing Theory, media content is framed in a certain way to the audience or viewer, giving the audience or individual an opportunity to make judgements based on the information or story that is being presented in the media. Frames are believed to influence the audience’s perception of the news; in this manner, it could be construed as a different form of second level agenda-setting. Agenda setting is not only telling the audience exactly what to think about, but also how to effectively think about the issue. Framing refers to the way media in which gatekeepers, media, organize and present different ideas, events, and interviews that are being covered. Both theories focus on how the media draws the eye of the public into specific topics.  

The creator of the Framing Theory was first brainstormed by Goffman; he predicted that people interpret what truly goes on around their world through their main perception of framework. Goffman believes that natural and social are the primary distinctions within primary frameworks. Natural and social depictions are elements of interpreting data. Shanoto Lyengar studied and identified two different types of media coverage: episodic and thematic. Episodic news treats issues as an individual event or coverage, whereas thematic news ties together case-study formats. Each experience can be understood in a wider social context, making the difference between the two functional. Goffman’s assumption is that individuals are users of framing on a day-to-day basis, even if they are aware of them or not.  

Natural frameworks occur when physical events take natural quotes literally and avoid attributing any social forces to the causation of events. As a result of whims, goals, and manipulations, social frameworks are viewed as socially driven occurrences. Frames work to structure and organize meanings in messages. Political ads are fitting examples of framing theory.  

Governor Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama’s job creation by pointing out the most negative issue going on. Unemployment was still around eight percent and the economy lacked hundreds of thousands of jobs during Obama’s presidency. Many assumptions have made those journalists guilty of associating the theory of framing. Journalists have complete power to select the topic of what story they plan to present, and they also have the power to decide how the topic is presented to the public. This causes audiences to consider the issue, raising the question, can you truly trust what a journalist is presenting to the media? 

The 60 Minutes broadcast underwent every approach to avoid allowing their viewers to assume that their content could be associated with framing. Audience framing can occur when the audience’s frame may contradict the media’s frame that is presented. Framing is caused by the time and resource constraints from the report itself. It is common for reporters to reference culturally popular ideas and develop catchy phrases that link to past phrases in a compelling way. The theory of framing is a powerful technique because they are easily evoked and reinforced to the audience. Many researchers conducted a study that showed when problems are expressed in a negative light, they simply imply a loss. Audiences tend to choose the riskier side for solving a problem that has been framed, with positive frames result in safer decision-making overall.  

This book is a celebration of Don’s excessively big decision to take a blind leap of faith to create a long running television news broadcast. Many adaptations occurred for the broadcast to continue for fifty years and beyond. This truly inspired me, as a student, to be eager and never give up on creating a story that I am passionate about. 60 Minutes has covered a fair share of interviews which exposed situations ranging from small to very large. 60 Minutes inspired a new innovative way for broadcasters to converge television, radio, and print media in a way that never has been displayed. 

  • CBS News. 2018. 50 Years of 60 Minutes. 1 July 2018. 20 October 2021.