Lesley Stahl On Mike Wallace and '60 Minutes'

When it comes to tackling a story for '60 Minutes,' Lesley Stahl has the sophistication of a lady and the eye of a tiger. It is these qualities and many more that earned Stahl multiple Emmys and other awards and solidifying her as one of the most respected journalists in the world.  An edited version of our phone interview with her follows

by Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
lesley stahl image
Photograph: CBS News

More: Why aren’t there more women featured on 60 Minutes?
LS: The problem is, no one leaves. (laughs) They hired me when Harry Reasoner died. People do not leave this job because it is such a wonderful job. Really, we don’t want to leave.

More: Is there a lot of pressure being on 60 Minutes, because the standards are so high?
LS: You kind of hope every journalist feels that way about every story they do. I came here 21 years ago, and covered Washington before that. In terms of getting the story right, I think you always have to feel that way. I don’t think about it when I am doing a story because I am so busy working. We know we have to be accurate. We know we have to be precise. We know we have to deliver a 13-minute story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. You are right in terms of quality, because the people who do get to work here are pretty much the best in the business so it does up your game.

More: Does the program have a different feel now that Andy Rooney is no longer there to close the show?
LS: Absolutely. There is not only a feeling within but with the audience as well that we are in some sort of transition. Not only don’t we have Andy at the end of the show but we also have people who are popping in and popping out. The show does need to have some younger people. While the ratings continue to get stronger, the one thing that will never change is the quality of the pieces. Another change with Jeff Fager, who took over for Don Hewitt, is that there is more of an emphasis of being on the news and doing more stories of the week. I think that change has brought us a fresh audience.

More: You once said something along the lines of, TV isn’t what is used to be and social media is hot. Is that why you got involved in WowOWow [Women on the Web]?
LS: Definitely. There were a few reasons, actually. I did want to do something on the Internet because that is the future—journalism will be on the Web. Secondly, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I have always worked for somebody, and now I wanted to do something new and with a group of women.  

More: How does it differ from what you are used to doing on 60 Minutes?
LS: A million different ways. When I am on 60 Minutes, it is among the biggest audiences in television. The reach is different with the Internet, and this particular site is geared for women in their forties and fifties. We are also much more targeted in the subjects we cover, and are more freewheeling. We do a lot of conversations and chats.

More: Do you feel you get to reinvent yourself by taking on a project like this?
LS: No, because I am still at 60 Minutes. If anything, I got to expand myself.

More: You are the definition of success. You have never failed at anything.
LS: If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you I am a very hard worker. I am a hard worker because I like what I do a lot and I put in the hours.

More: Have you had to sacrifice anything along the way?
LS: I did, but I never thought of it as sacrifice. I raised a child [her daughter Taylor]. Although I didn’t go to everything [of hers], I know for a fact she felt it was good that I worked and had a big job. If I had turned all of that energy on her, it would have been ugly (laughs) and she knows it.

More: Who is your hero?
LS: That has always been a hard question. When I started there were so few ahead of me. I always admired Barbara Walters.

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