'60 Minutes' scores with Obama interview

Z ON TV

Obama's Transition

November 20, 2008|By DAVID ZURAWIK

Presidential politics has been very good to the 40-year-old CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes.

Sunday's telecast with correspondent Steve Kroft interviewing President-elect Barack Obama and future first lady Michelle Obama was the top-rated single hour of prime-time programming this season with 25.1 million viewers.

Jeff Fager, the 53-year-old executive producer of 60 Minutes, talked to me about the relationship between the record ratings and his team's coverage of the campaigns of Obama and Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

It is no accident Obama chose 60 Minutes as a stage from which to address the American people, as he did Sunday.

Fager said Kroft and two of the show's producers "earned the trust" of the Obama campaign by doing "old-fashioned, shoe leather reporting" and forming a "bond" with candidate Obama.

As for the power of having Obama on 60 Minutes: "Well, I think it's a particularly difficult time in the country. And if you just look at the past two weeks, there's a fascination with Barack Obama - whether you were with him or not. He's a compelling figure. There's something reassuring about a president so thoughtful and articulate and seemingly normal at a time like this," Fager said.

"And I think we've benefited from being on top of the campaign at a time when people want to hear what he has to say. He's moving into some troubled waters, and because of that, there's a lot of anxiety out there and to hear him talk about some of these issues is obviously bringing a lot of people into our broadcast."

A footnote Fager says 60 Minutes wanted to focus on the Clinton campaign in the same way it did Obama's, but that her team "wasn't as interested in co-operating."

How'd that work out, folks? Read the full interview at baltimoresun.com/zontv

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