What keeps '60 Minutes' ticking for five decades?

reliable sources jeff fager

How does a TV program stay relevant for 50 years and counting? Jeff Fager, the executive producer of "60 Minutes," says it's all about creating a broadcast that "feels like it belongs in today's world."

The key is to "anticipate what the big stories are, so that we can spend months reporting them. It's not about this week's events, but digging down deep about something that is in the news," Fager told Brian Stelter in this week's edition of the Reliable Sources podcast.

The prestigious CBS News magazine show launched in 1968 and has since amassed 138 Emmy Awards starting in 1971 with Morley Safer's investigation on the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and continues to deliver impactful stories with each episode.

Most recently, a collaboration between The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" that aired on October 15 led the Trump administration's pick for "drug czar" Tom Marino to withdraw from consideration. Marino, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, had a primary role in promoting a bill that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration's control over opioid drug distributors.

"This was, I think, a stunning story for a lot of people," Fager told Stelter. That included President Trump, who said in a press conference the day after the story aired: "I did see the report. We're going to look into the report. We're going to take it very seriously."

A day after Trump's comment, Marino withdrew his name from consideration.

That kind of impact is "a journalism dream," Fager told Stelter.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

While President Trump has yet to agree to an interview with "60 Minutes," Fager is optimistic it will eventually take place.

"I think the '60 Minutes' interview is an important interview to do," Fager told Stelter.

"The White House knows what we offer. And they know that we are going to ask very direct questions. I think they also know that we're going to be fair," he added.

Fager talked with Stelter about "60 Minutes'" storied past, the subject of his new book "Fifty Years of 60 Minutes: The Inside Story of Television's Most Influential News Broadcast," published by Simon & Schuster.

When he was approached by the publisher with the idea of writing a history of the show, Fager said he "felt the responsibility" to oblige. "I'm not sure who else could tell the story," he told Stelter.

Fager is surely qualified. He has been in the role of executive producer at "60 Minutes" for the past 14 years, taking over after the show's creator Don Hewitt stepped down in 2004.

Hewitt "had an incredible energy about him," Fager said. He also had "an attention span of about 14 minutes," which gave him the idea for a news magazine where stories wouldn't have to be "long snoozers," but snappier and more engaging.

"He just thought television doesn't need to be boring, television should be exciting, too," Fager explained. That's why "60 Minutes" reports are usually about 12 and 14 minutes long, he said.

That format gives "60 Minutes" a leg up in the current media landscape.

"I am actually confident about our digital future because our stories play so well on your mobile device," Fager told Stelter.


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