The Insider

Dec 2, 2002  •  Post A Comment

After the umpteenth story about Don Hewitt’s reluctance to pack it in at “60 Minutes” appeared in print last week, you couldn’t go to any gathering of TV types without running into a joke that invoked the name of the colorful executive producer who changed the face of news in prime time-and the role of news programming in the corporate search for profit margins. Last Tuesday, former CBS News and network president turned Sony Corporation of America chief Howard Stringer (who received an International Emmy the night before) got into the act as he accepted the Edward R. Murrow Award for International and Intercultural Communications from Mr. Murrow’s alma mater, Washington State University, at a luncheon in the swellegant Sony Club.
“I’d still be at CBS if I’d thought I could outlive Don,” he said, quickly identifying the line as a “topical joke.”
Later in the day, the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria was the scene of the biggest-ever turnout for the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 12th Annual International Press Freedom Awards ceremony.
There was much sobering and celebratory food for thought during the evening, emceed by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw, who was fresh off the plane from Baghdad. Mr. Brokaw, who sported an Iraqi tan that set off his tux, charcoal shirt and gray and black striped bow tie, offered a Hewitt joke that demonstrated that even when he is out of the country he is not out of the loop.
Introducing presenter Mike Wallace, Mr. Brokaw said the “60 Minutes” correspondent and Mr. Hewitt had spent the day “checking out retirement homes … for Mel Karmazin and Les Moonves.”
To which Mr. Wallace-who is about to take an unprecedented six-week midseason vacation during which he and his wife will hang out in Mexico-drolly and oh-so-dryly replied: “Welcome back, Tom.”
The program is part fund-raiser (a whopping $1.137 million last week), part consciousness-raiser and frequent hair-raiser, because it does honor journalists who have faced great peril or worse in the course of doing their jobs in the 130 countries the CPJ monitors.
Mr. Brokaw announced the five-year Campaign for CPJ, which will be chaired by Mr. Brokaw, “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather and Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press reporter who was held hostage in Lebanon for more than six years before being released.
More than $7 million already has been raised, thanks to a $2.5 million challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, million-dollar contributions from the Annenberg Foundation and Bloomberg and five- and six-figure contributions from a slew of individual and group donors. The goal is to raise another $5 million for the committee, which rides to the rescue of journalists in countries where getting the story can be hazardous to the health.
Honey, WNBC unshrunk the promos
WNBC-TV, New York, is thinking big about the new image campaign that debuted in November on the small screen and will play on all screens in Regal and Screen Vision theaters in Manhattan and some outer boroughs from Dec. 13 through Jan. 16.
The two eye-catching 30-second spots-no sound except for dramatic techno-sounding musical beats; no identification except by beat of the station’s reporters-were created by WNBC creative services and programming chief David Hyman with the production company run by his predecessor Randy Pyburn.
For TV, the shots were done on 35mm film and converted to digital-format videotape. For their theatrical run, the spots were remixed for six-track sound and resized to fit movie-screen proportions and then converted back to 35mm film.
Mr. Hyman would not discuss the expense involved except to say it was “justifiable.”
“We love how it came out,” he said.
The Insider, who has heard audiences boo commercials at movie houses, wondered whether Mr. Hyman had any fears of a backlash.
“We hope it generates conversation,” he said delicately. “There are lots of messages out there.”
The contest continues …
The Name That Two `n One News Organization contest soliciting suggestions on what to call the ABC News-CNN partnership should it come to pass has been extended. You have another week to send suggestions (and information about how you’d like to be identified if your entry is published) to mgreppi@crain.com because … The Insider has run out of space.