"Tell me a story, and tell it well"- Jeff Fager and the legacy of 60 Minutes

November 6th, 2016
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Jeff Fager has been a producer at CBS News for over 30 years, and the Executive Producer of 60 Minutes since 2004, when he took on the reins from series creator Don Hewitt. But he never planned to have a career in news. Fager grew up in Wellesley, MA, the son of a neurosurgeon who didn't even allow him to watch television, calling it “brain rot.” But Fager knew he loved adventure and loved storytelling. So he got a job sweeping the floors of WBZ (an NBC affiliate in Boston) right out of college. He created opportunities for himself, volunteering to write copy for free. He once offered to drive Diane Sawyer to the airport from the station he was working at, knowing she was a rising star at CBS. He wasted no time, pointedly asking her, “How do I get to Network?” She told him they were hiring for the graveyard shift on a brand-new show, which turned out to be Nightwatch. Fager got the job, and then his career as a producer really began.

On the dangers of covering stories from war zones, such as a CBS News Story interviewing the PLO from Damascus:

Fager learned from CBS News executives like Tom Bettag and Don Hewitt about reporting a story in ways that were not always in keeping with conventional wisdom: “You can’t ignore something because it’s going to offend a sensibility… there’s a bias there that can’t exist, if you want the world to be a better place because of your reporting. We do what we do because we want it to have impact. We want it to make a difference. We want it to be fair and accurate. But we don’t want it to be driven by someone’s agenda. You really have to fight for that.”

On the 60 Minutes II coverage of the abuse at Abu Ghraib, covered by Dan Rather: “It was CBS News at its finest”:

When the creator of the oldest and most-watched newsmagazine on television, Don Hewitt, stepped down in 2004, Fager took on the responsibility of maintaining the 60 Minutes legacy. He told us what he learned from his mentor: “Tell me a story, and tell it well.”

On the best advice he’s received about producing, from Don Hewitt:

Fager was open with us about some of the more controversial stories that have aired on 60 Minutes, and how he dealt with the fallout as the show’s Executive Producer. “When you make a mistake, own up to it.”

On the controversial 60 Minutes Benghazi story and why they issued a retraction:

On how the media has covered the political campaigns and candidates in 2016:

60 Minutes has been on the air for 49 seasons, and not without controversy. But Fager is passionate about what the program stands for, and sees it as vital: “We don’t cover issues. We tell stories. And I think that is still a fundamental concept that makes 60 Minutes different.”

- Jenni Matz

See the full interview at http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/jeff-fager

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