January 22nd, 2021

On Media

'60 Minutes,' king of accountability for others, operated without it

Erik Wemple

By Erik Wemple The Washington Post

Published Dec. 10, 2018

'60 Minutes,' king of accountability for others, operated without it
Lance Armstrong, the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, President Donald Trump, credit reporting agencies, scammers, babbling politicians - they've all withered under the lights of searing "60 Minutes" interviews.

"America is hungry for real reporting on important subject matter," former top producer Jeff Fager said upon receiving a First Amendment award from Quinnipiac University in June. "That is what we strive for every single Sunday. '60 Minutes' has really evolved over the years, but we have kept our standards and our values the same. We still think of our role the way that it was thought of when '60 Minutes' was created - news is a public service."

Quinnipiac University later rescinded that award after charges of sexual misconduct and plain bad management surfaced over the summer. Fager was fired in September after he sent a misguided text message to a colleague at CBS News who was reporting on in-house controversies - an action viewed by colleagues as a pretext firing to avoid dealing with the bigger issues in Fager's past.

Well, the reckoning is now upon "60 Minutes" and the CBS Corp. thanks to a draft report from lawyers hired by the company's board of directors to investigate the workplace. As reported by the New York Times, the draft report flags Fager for "certain acts of sexual misconduct," bolstering reporting over the summer by the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow. It also found that Fager had failed to block others from behaving poorly.

Not a surprising conclusion. As reported by The Washington Post and by Farrow in his New Yorker piece, Fager for years supervised producer Michael Radutzky, a hard-driving journalist who tormented his colleagues with screaming fits and other antics, such as throwing objects in meetings. One staffer kept a spreadsheet of Radutzky's eruptions. In one episode, Radutzky was alleged to have threatened to throw furniture at a female "60 Minutes" executive, and grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back. He denied the allegations, and he quietly left "60 Minutes" earlier this year. At the time of this newspaper's report, Radutzky said:

"Thank you for your interest in my years at 60 Minutes. I understand that you have questions about my career as well as the recent New Yorker story's description of the intense environment in which we worked. I remain proud of the groundbreaking stories we produced.

"As you know, there are multiple investigations ongoing at CBS which I welcome and must honor.

"When the investigations are concluded, we can have a conversation if you're still interested. For now, I will not be able to answer any questions or submit to an interview, given the pending CBS investigations."

The Radutzky situation secured mention in the draft report, according to the New York Times:

"Mr. Radutzky, they wrote, was 'abusive, screamed and threw objects at other "60 Minutes" staff.' The lawyers noted that while many people at '60 Minutes' were aware of the conduct, Mr. Fager tolerated it because he viewed Mr. Radutzky as an 'extraordinarily talented' producer.

"In a statement, Mr. Radutzky said: 'Some people may have found me difficult, but I was committed not only to getting the story but getting it first and getting it right. In that intense environment, I'm sure I said things that may have been hurtful to my colleagues. Now, with some distance, I regret the toll that it took on all of us.'"

The report also addresses allegations against producer Ira Rosen, who "occasionally made inappropriate sexual comments to his female subordinates, such as asking them to twirl and encouraging them to use their sex appeal to secure information from sources," according to the report. As the New York Times reported earlier this week, former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves also obstructed efforts to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, according to the investigations; he resigned in September.

The report attributes the misconduct at "60 Minutes" to an organizational dynamic. "60 Minutes" has long been its own fiefdom, a place where investigative journalists, aggressive producers, outstanding writers and, yes, harassers did their thing with minimal interference from anyone in the upper reaches of the company.

"(T)he physical, administrative and cultural separation between '60 Minutes' and the rest of CBS News permitted misconduct by some '60 Minutes' employees," says the report, according to the New York Times. Those who see themselves as forces for accountability need people to hold them accountable.


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