It’s Sunday night, almost 7 p.m. and you are finishing dinner. You turn on the TV and settle in to watch this week’s “60 Minutes.”
Nowadays, it could be any night of the week to use your DVR or stream the latest episode from your smart TV. Whatever your preference, for over 50 years the weekly TV investigative news magazine has been, and continues to be, a favorite way for Americans to be informed on issues, whether political, military, criminals and con men, famous people, or culture.
It is said that the secret of its success was building a show around the personality of the correspondents, showing their adventures traveling around the world, and building the stories around people.
In his new memoir, “Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at ‘60 Minutes,’” producer Ira Rosen shares some of the most memorable and important stories that he produced for the show. Rosen has won numerous awards in broadcast journalism, including 24 national Emmy Awards and two Peabody awards. His reporting with The Washington Post on the opioid epidemic won more awards for “60 Minutes” than any series in the show’s 52-year history.
For those of us who love insights and hearing the behind-the-scenes scoop, this program is for you. Rosen is a storyteller, and you will be entertained with some of the stories he created while working as a producer for correspondent Mike Wallace, starting in June 1980, until he left 25 years later.
What is the producer’s role in finding stories, finding sources, deciding who to put on camera, and working with the correspondent who does the final TV interview? As Rosen tells it in the book, Mike Wallace’s aggressive and confrontational interview style often spilled over to the people working for him, often including his producers.
What were Mike Wallace’s best interview techniques to get people to talk? The process and stories are fascinating.
So, how did a nice Jewish boy from New York (the Bronx and Queens) become a hard driving investigative journalist working in the very competitive world at “60 Minutes”? Rosen has said that he’s “intellectually curious, with tendencies toward attention deficit disorder,” and that journalism was the perfect job, going from subject to subject without having to specialize.
He attended Cornell University and spent his first summer teaching tennis in the Catskills to help pay for college tuition. As a tennis pro, he learned to cajole people into taking lessons when they really didn’t want them. Hustling tennis, he says, honed his skills in the art of persuasion.
Much of the time, journalists get people to do what every instinct in their bones is telling them not to do–talk to the media. But his great tennis game connected him to key people and eventually led to his career at “60 Minutes.”
How has “60 Minutes” managed to stay alive and attract a younger audience with so many sources of information, including social media? Which correspondent over the years do you want to know more about?
Be sure to join us at the Jewish Book Festival’s closing event to hear more, and re-visit some of the memorable segments you remember most.
Ira Rosen will discuss “Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at ‘60 Minutes’” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. For details or to register for this virtual event, visit the Jewish Book Festival web page at https://www.jewishsgpv.org/jewish-book-festival.
Denise Schaefer is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.