Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
60 Minutes is the name of an American magazine-format television news program produced by CBS News. The program, which currently airs at 7 P.M. on Sundays, has often been a leader in the ratings, both because of its provocative content and because it occupies the time slot immediately following CBS broadcasts of NFL football. The show begins and ends with the image and sound of a Heuer stopwatch, which has become one of the most-recognized symbols in American television.
The creator of 60 Minutes, and the man credited with much of its success, is Don Hewitt . Hewitt retired as executive producer in late 2004 and was replaced by Jeff Fager, who produces the spin-off program 60 Minutes II, now called 60 Minutes Wednesday, which began airing on weeknights in 1999.
The name 60 Minutes is also used by Australian and New Zealand television current affairs programs, which are based on the American show. The BBC also used the name for a short-lived hour-long early-evening news programme in the 1980s.
The American version is also broadcast on some foreign television networks and stations, and some segments are shown on American Airlines.
American 60 Minutes
The American 60 Minutes is noted for its unique style and ability to generate news and controversy. As of 2004, the program (together with its contributors) has won a total of 75 Emmy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 2003 to creator Don Hewitt and past and present correspondents. 60 Minutes has also won many other prestigious journalism and television industry awards over the 36 years it has aired.
The format consists of three long-form news stories, without superimposed graphics. The stories are introduced from a set which has a backdrop resembling a magazine story on the same topic. The stories, often investigative, usually address topics which were previously the subject of stories in national newspapers such as The New York Times.
One common theme to the stories involves some allegedly cheating corporate executive or other high-placed alleged wrongdoer who is asked to comment on a story adverse to him or her. Invariably, the alleged wrongdoer does not want to comment and is shown avoiding the pursuing 60 Minutes reporter and camera crew.
Other themes which have been associated with the show include its "Point-Counterpoint" debate segments, which originally featured James J. Kilpatrick on the conservative side of the debate and Shana Alexander for the liberals. This format was lampooned during the early years of the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live, with Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd as the debaters; Aykroyd would begin his remarks with, "Jane, you ignorant slut." The "Point-Counterpoint" segments were recently revived for a few months featuring Bob Dole and Bill Clinton.
The show usually ends with a commentary by Andy Rooney expounding on topics from the war in Iraq to why they don't make paper clips the way they used to. One recurring topic is counting the amount of coffee in coffee-cans. Rooney's pieces, particularly one in which he referred to actor Mel Gibson as a "wacko," have often led to complaints from viewers.
The program's correspondents and commentators have included:
- Shana Alexander .... Liberal Debater (1975-79)
- Ed Bradley .... Correspondent (1981-)
- Bill Clinton ... Liberal Debater (2002-2003)
- Stanley Crouch .... Commentator (1996)
- Bob Dole ... Conservative commentator (2002-2003)
- Molly Ivins .... Liberal commentator (1996)
- James J. Kilpatrick .... Conservative debater (1971-79)
- Steve Kroft .... Correspondent (1989-)
- P. J. O'Rourke .... Conservative commentator (1996)
- Dan Rather .... Correspondent (1975-1981)
- Harry Reasoner .... Correspondent (1968-1970, 1978-1991)
- Andrew Rooney .... Correspondent (1978-)
- Morley Safer .... Correspondent (1970-)
- Diane Sawyer .... Correspondent (1984-1989)
- Lesley Stahl .... Correspondent (1991-)
- Meredith Vieira .... Correspondent (1989-1991)
- Nicholas Von Hoffman .... Liberal debater (1971-74)
- Mike Wallace .... Correspondent (1968-)
Some segments of the 60 Minutes program has been criticized by people of various communities, such as conservative and liberal politicians, and somewhat notably by video game players. Many conservatives feel that 60 Minutes has a record of shoddy journalistic integrity, particularly regarding political stories attacking conservative politicians. The March 6, 2005, segment was criticized or frowned upon by many video game players for depicting or inspiring video game censorship.
Many news organizations suffer from errors in reporting or judgement. Several episodes in particular stand out in the history of 60 Minutes.
In 1986, Don Hewitt greenlit a story concerning the Audi 5000 automobile, a popular German luxury car. The story concerned a number of incidents where the car purportedly accelerated without warning while parked, injuring or killing people. 60 Minutes was unable to duplicate this behavior, and so hired an outside consultant to modify the transmission to behave in this manner, and aired a story about it. The incident devastated Audi sales in the United States, which did not reach the same level for another 15 years. The initial incidents which prompted the report were found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada to have been attributable to operator error , where car owners had depressed the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal. CBS issued a partial retraction, without acknowledging the test results of involved government agencies. A rival to 60 Minutes, Dateline NBC, would be found guilty of similar tactics years later regarding fuel tank integrity on General Motors pickup trucks.
Brown & Williamson
In 1996, former Brown & Williamson (B&W) Vice President for Research & Development Jeffrey Wigand provided information to 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman that B&W had systematically hidden the health risks of their cigarettes. Furthermore, it was alleged that B&W had introduced foreign agents (fiberglass, ammonia, etc.) with the intent of enhancing nicotine's effects. Bergman began to produce a piece based upon the information, but ran into opposition from Don Hewitt. Because of the hesitation from Hewitt, The Wall Street Journal instead broke Wigand's story. The 60 Minutes piece was eventually aired with substantially altered content, and was missing some of the most damning evidence against B&W. The exposť of the incident was published in an article in Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner , entitled The Man Who Knew Too Much . The New York Times (who, in a twist of fate, would later be tainted by scandal) wrote that 60 Minutes and CBS had "betrayed the legacy of Edward R. Murrow." The incident was turned into a seven-times Oscar-nominated feature film, starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, entitled The Insider.
60 Minutes alleged in 1997 that agents for the U.S. Customs Service ignored drug trafficking across the U.S.-Mexican border at San Diego. The only evidence was a memorandum apparently written by Rudy Camacho, who was the head of the San Diego branch office. Based on this memo, CBS alleged that Camacho had allowed trucks belonging to a particular firm to cross the border unimpeded. Mike Horner, a former Customs Service employee, had passed the memos on to 60 Minutes, and even provided a copy with an official stamp. Camacho was not consulted about the article, and his career was devastated in the immediate term as his own department placed suspicion on him. In the end, it turned out that Horner had forged the documents as an act of revenge for his treatment within the Customs Service. Camacho successfully sued CBS for an unknown settlement, and Don Hewitt was forced to issue an on-air retraction. (The Washington Post, April 13, 1999)
60 Minutes II received a set of documents which alleged that, while in the service of the Texas Air National Guard, President George W. Bush was declared unfit for duty, and suspended from service. Producer Mary Mapes passed the information on to CBS anchor Dan Rather, who aired the information on September 8, 2004. These documents were the source of a considerable controversy when bloggers raised doubts about their authenticity, which then spilled over into the mainstream media. CBS later admitted their "regrets" that they had "been misled" by the source of the documents, former Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett. Given that Bill Burkett was a well-known nemesis of George W. Bush, accepting without much reservation any evidence from such a potentially unreliable source seemed to show either incompetence on behalf of the CBS researchers or, as speculated by Bush supporters, an active anti-Bush bias by Dan Rather and the producers of 60 Minutes II. The producer of the 60 Minutes II piece in question has a history of supporting the Democratic Party, and, after receiving the documents in question, acceeded to Mr. Burkett's request to be put in contact with the John Kerry campaign leadership before the 60 Minutes II segment was aired. Since several of the evidence experts employed by 60 Minutes II questioned the authenticity of the documents and cautioned against using them, many media watchdogs have inferred that political bias is the more likely explanation; however, the independent commission charged with investigating the incident concluded that the controlling factor was, instead, an overwhelming desire to beat other news organizations — such as USA Today, which went to press with their own Killian memos story immediately afterwards — to the "scoop".
The fallout for 60 Minutes II from running this segment greatly hurt both its credibility and that of Dan Rather. Ratings for both 60 Minutes II and CBS Evening News anchored by Dan Rather plummeted amidst the public perception that CBS was being overly stubborn and defensive about their use of documents which were widely felt to be fraudulent. Then-retired 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II creator and executive producer Don Hewitt publicly stated that it was wrong for 60 Minutes II to air the segment and it would not have aired if he had been still in control of the newsmagazine program. Many conservative pundits point to this as a prime example of a liberal bias in the US media. When CBS announced November 23, 2004 that Dan Rather would leave his position as news anchor with the network effective March 9, 2005, it was widely believed that his retirement was at least partly a consequence of the Killian memo scandal.
Australian 60 Minutes
The program's correspondents and commentators have included:
- Tara Brown .... Correspondent (2001-)
- Jennifer Byrne .... Correspondent (1986-1993)
- Richard Carleton .... Correspondent (1987-)
- Tracey Curro .... Correspondent (1993-1997)
- Ellen Fanning .... Correspondent (1999-2001)
- Liz Hayes .... Correspondent (1996-)
- Ian Leslie .... Correspondent (1979-1989)
- Jeff McMullen .... Correspondent (1985-2001)
- Ray Martin .... Correspondent (1979-1984)
- Mike Munro .... Correspondent (1986-1992)
- George Negus .... Correspondent (1979-1986)
- Peter Overton .... Correspondent (2001-)
- Jana Wendt .... Correspondent (1982-1990,1994)
- Charles Wooley .... Correspondent (1993-)
- Paul Lyneham .... Commentator (????-2000)
- Peter Harvey .... Commentator (2003-)
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