The concept of 60 Minutes was to be the first of its kind for a “television newsmagazine”. Each 60 minute episode was broken down into 3 segments roughly 15 minutes apiece, and a reporter (always only one) will take a deep dive into a subject through a number of investigative journalism techniques. Many of these techniques that have now become popular formats for television journalism were in fact pioneered by 60 Minutes, such as the use of hidden cameras, re-editing interviews, and gotcha journalism visits to the homes and offices of interview subjects.
Over the span of its history, 60 Minutes has been anchored by some of the most influential journalists of their times. We already addressed Charlie Rose’s tenure, and in addition there has also been Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, Anderson Cooper, and so many others. There have also been recurring segments that have appeared on 60 Minutes in some years, such as one called Point/Counterpoint that featured issue debates between a liberal and a conservative commentator. The last time this aired about a decade ago, the debaters were none other than Bob Dole and former President Bill Clinton. Then of course, there are the 3 – 5 minute segments of Andy Rooney where he rants about random little things in life like bottled water, modern art, curse words, and seemingly whatever else strikes his fancy.
Ever since 60 Minutes pioneered the format, newsmagazines have become a very popular genre for television shows. Nowadays we have 2020, 48 Hours, America Now, Business Nation, Dateline, Frontline, Inside Edition, Primetime, and so many others that all began from the influence of 60 Minutes. Just as print newsmagazines bridge the gap of content depth between newspapers and nonfiction books, television newsmagazines bridge the gap of content depth between news shows and documentaries. It is a unique form of journalism and one that can be applied to topics serious or trivial, which has perhaps been one of the main reasons why the format has caught on across so many different channels.
Formatting innovations have always been a subject of interest to me. The events industry and the media industry share the commonalities that we are both industries of content creation, and that the content we create is influenced by the technological capabilities of our times and subsequently has the potential to influence the culture of our societies. 60 Minutes was a pioneer for television journalism at a time when America was anxious for answers. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the timing could not have been better for CBS to launch a show like 60 Minutes with its signature hard-hitting questions and guerilla style journalism. People trusted 60 Minutes to bring out the truth behind stories they hear about on the news, and also to bring out stories to people’s attention that otherwise have gotten very little coverage. It is a show that have found a winning formula, and it is a formula that has sustained the show’s success for nearly half a century.
See you at the next exploration!