60 Minutes was founded as a weekly news show from the premier broadcast news organization. The idea was that, as a news program with a full hour to devote to a few stories, it would have the time to thoroughly investigate issues and report beyond the headlines. It became a huge success. For decades, Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, Ed Bradley, Diane Sawyer, Dan Rather, Morley Safer and others broke stories of real substance, even when the subjects of the stories refused to cooperate.
Unfortunately, the program now seems a shadow of its former self.
In a short, ten week span, Lara Logan and Leslie Stahl showed us what happens when a reporter lacks a real curiosity for the subject matter and fails to follow the disciplines of basic reporting. Maybe they were deceived. Maybe they succumbed to the charm of their interview subjects. More likely they approached the story with preconceived notions. Whatever the reason, they turned in reports unworthy of those who established the once-proud tradition of CBS News and 60 Minutes.
Logan later apologized for her false story on Benghazi, and was given a leave of absence from the network. Stahl, however, has not commented on criticisms of her shallow and misleading story on “Clean Tech.” She was given no time off. And this past week she returned to the type of story for which I believe she is better suited…fluff. Her report on those who have superior autobiographical memory is the kind of insipid story at which she truly excels. Indeed, it was the kind of story best-suited for the new 60 Minutes…a story that requires no real reporting. No complicated technologies to grasp. No requirement to investigate and vet sources. No nuances of international politics.
The question is, were the recent failures solely the fault of the reporters? Or were they the failure of network management? Time will tell. In the meantime, I find myself missing the insightful reporting of Andy Rooney, he of large eyebrows who filed investigative reports about his shoes or the contents of his office. In many ways, he displayed better journalistic instincts than some of the show’s most recent stories.