It’s hard to believe that this show has been on the air for 41 years! It’s currently the longest-running prime time TV program. To give you an idea of how amazing that is, the lead story that first night (Sept. 24, 1968) was a behind-the-scenes look at the convention suites of the presidential candidates. Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. Whoa.
Now you need a scorecard to keep up with all the hosts, but that first night featured Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner. Morley Safer came in 1970. Here are the others who’ve been hosts (more than this have been correspondents). See how many you’ve forgotten: Christiane Amanpour, Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Scott Pelley, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Bob Simon, Lesley Stahl, and Meredith Vieira.
It used to scare the wits out of people when Mike Wallace would show up at their door unannounced. Sometimes people turned him away, which was good TV, but more often they thought they could outsmart him, which was even better TV. The show was much more about investigative journalism in its early years, and is more feature oriented today. But then, isn’t that true of the whole news business?
One of the popular early segments featured conservative James Kilpatrick and liberal Shana Alexander debated issues in a format that probably gave other network shows a format for debate, notably Crossfire. It led to one of the earliest hit parodies on Saturday Night Live, with Dan Ackroyd telling Jane Curtin, “Jane, you ignorant slut.”
And no discussion of 60 Minutes would be complete without a few minutes with Andy Rooney: