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Essay/Term paper: Journalism

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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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


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. 

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