Sunday, September 26, 2004


Even the venerable warhorse of a news magazine, '60 Minutes', is part of the TV Universe. For instance, Mike Wallace appeared as himself in the final episode of 'Murphy Brown'.

And since 1999, it has had a spin-off, known as '60 Minutes II'. (Although now it's being called '60 Minutes Wednesday' - at least since the latest troubles.)

Here's a report by Richard Huff of the New York Daily News on the in-fighting that's erupted between the two shows since the story broke:

A war of words has erupted within the halls of "60 Minutes" following Dan Rather's admission that CBS News aired a report on President Bush [and his service in the Texas Air National Guard] using questionable documents.

On one side of the battle is Steve Kroft, a veteran correspondent on the Sunday edition of "60 Minutes." On the other is Don Hewitt, founder of the pioneering newsmagazine.

Kroft argues it's unlikely the Sunday show would have made the mistake of using the documents that bolstered Rather's report - which aired on the Wednesday telecast, formerly known as "60 Minutes II."

So much so, Kroft and staffers on the Sunday telecast want it to be clear - they weren't the ones that were duped.

"We're all afraid of that, that's our biggest concern," Kroft told the Daily News. "We've held off from saying it, we've held off from making any comments as long as there was some hope the documents would prove to be real.

"Now, I think it's our responsibility to try to draw a distinction between the two broadcasts," Kroft said, admitting that the original show had been burned in the past and had learned from its mistakes.

"They've done a lot of great work over there ... particularly with the Abu Ghraib story, they didn't rush that story on the air. This one, for whatever reason, they did."

Kroft said he was surprised when "60 Minutes II" dropped the "II" in its name, but noted yesterday that in CBS' statements regarding the mistake, the show had become "60 Minutes Wednesday."

The second edition of "60 Minutes" was a contentious project from the start. Hewitt, the creator of "60 Minutes," fought against expanding the franchise but was overruled. The second show launched Jan. 13, 1999.

"I think they've acquitted themselves nicely," said Hewitt, who was forced out as executive producer last season. "When I objected to there being a second show, I didn't know how good it was going to be."

He scolded his old crew yesterday for sniping at their beleaguered colleagues.

"Now, when the other one is in trouble, they're piling on. It's unfair, uncalled for and not the way that grown men should act," Hewitt said.
Who knew spin-offs could provide that much excitement off-camera?


"Do not judge us yet; there is more to come."
- Walter Cronkite
'CBS At 50'

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