The Decline of 60 Minutes

The Los Angeles Times asks:60 Minutes” used to stand for rigorous, honest reporting. What’s happened to it?

It’s been on the decline for years. And it’s sad, because it once was the gold standard of investigative journalism. Now investigative journalism means little more than Glenn Beck yammering about things he knows nothing about.

When 60 Minutes did a story on electroshock, I worked hard with the producer to make it a fair story. The end result was a joke, and they never even clarified that Harold Sackeim is a PhD, not an MD. Everyone refers to him as Doctor Sackeim, but a lot of people are called doctor, and they’re not MDs. (Not saying that MDs are gods. They’re not. But there’s a difference between a PhD and someone who has slept through medical school, made a strong D average, did a residency, and was pushed into psychiatry because the A students become cardiac surgeons, not psychiatrists.)

Harold Sackeim would have loved to gone to medical school. He’s thrilled his son is going to Columbia Med school. (Unless the kid has flunked out…I don’t know. He seems to party a lot and I think I recall a party in a swank Manhattan hotel that ended in trouble.)

Regardless, the entire 60 Minutes piece carried on and on about Dr. Sackeim this, Dr. Sackeim says, but they never bothered to mention Dr. Sackeim is a psychologist and is not even legally allowed to push the shock button. He can do all the research he wants, but when it’s time to pull the switch, he has to call in big daddy.

After the piece aired, the producer called me, with excitement, and asked how I liked the story. I told him it was trite as all hell, and was no different from the stories that had aired on shows like Inside Edition. (Actually, Inside Edition did a great job, because they busted Sackeim on his lies…they LISTENED, and then confronted and Sackeim had to do some fast talking to get out of that.)

I hurt the producer’s feelings quite a lot, and I’m proud of that. He deserved to be hurt. (And he’s no longer at 60 Minutes, but I suspect he went on to bigger things, such as Dance Moms.) The show was a cookie-cutter piece like every other story is.

And when I lambasted him that they hadn’t even clarified Sackeim’s lack of a medical degree, he said “Did it matter?” (Paraphrased) The American public was too stupid to know the difference.

So the answer to the Los Angeles Times is that the decline happened long ago. It’s been a downhill slide into tabloid journalism.

Edward R. Murrow is dead, and so is quality journalism.

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