This week on 60 Minutes, the broadcast celebrates 50 seasons on the air, making it the longest-running primetime news broadcast in history. To mark the occasion, 60 Minutes Overtime asked executive producer Jeff Fager to give viewers a guided tour of the place and the people behind the iconic broadcast.
“Still probably some blood on the floor from the battles that took place in here.”
In the video posted above, cameras follow Fager into his West 57th street office—once occupied by 60 Minutes founder Don Hewitt — and down the hall to the row of correspondents’ offices, where he pops in on Steve Kroft working in Mike Wallace’s old office with a view of the Hudson River behind him.
“A lot of history in this room,” Kroft says.
“It’s true — and still probably some blood on the floor from the battles that took place in here,” adds Fager.
The executive producer shows viewers the broadcast’s giant whiteboard of current story assignments and a small chalkboard titled “Fager’s Forbidden Words” on which he’s scribbled terms and phrases to be avoided in 60 Minutes stories, such as “exclusive,” and “experts say.”
“Language matters,” says Fager.
“There’s nothing better than just being with your team in the edit room and piecing it all together — it’s like a jigsaw puzzle.”
Strolling through the halls, he stumbles upon veteran producer Alan “Sparky” Weisman chatting with correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi; producers who just returned from reporting trips to Mongolia (Nicole Young) and Afghanistan (Guy Campanile); and Anderson Cooper huddled around editor Patrick Lee’s Avid workstation with a team of London-based producers writing a piece that’s expected to air in a week.
“It’s actually part of the process I have always loved,” says Cooper. “There’s nothing better than just being with your team in the edit room and piecing it all together — it’s like a jigsaw puzzle.”
Fager also takes viewers to the CBS News Broadcast Center, an old dairy plant that occupies almost an entire city block in New York City, where Lesley Stahl is preparing to tape this week’s studio portion of the broadcast. Fager introduces viewers to the senior producer broadcast producer, Debbie De Luca Sheh, who runs the control room, and camera operator Lee Wardan, who says steering the giant 60 Minutes studio camera is somewhat counterintuitive.
“Up is down. Down is up. Right is left. Left is right,” says Wardan, as she slowly guides the teleprompter towards Stahl.
Fager took the reigns from Don Hewitt in 2004 and is the author of the new book “Fifty Years of 60 Minutes: The Inside Story of Television’s Most Influential News Broadcast,” published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS. He prides himself on being a student of 60 Minutes history, and viewers can see that throughout his tour. Fager points out artifacts of 60 Minutes’ early days and stops to talk about a black-and-white photograph of CBS News legends, Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow.
“Don Hewitt always said he learned more from Fred Friendly than anybody in his whole life,” says Fager. “They didn’t like each other, but he really taught him everything. And Don, then, taught it to us. That’s how we’ve kept so many of our values and standards alive.”
What will it take to keep 60 Minutes — and its values and standards — going for another 50 years? Executive Editor Bill Owens chimes in during the tour: “We take it week by week.”
The video above was produced by Ann Silvio and Lisa Orlando. It was edited by Lisa Orlando.
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