Lesley Stahl and counting obstacles to invade the Media Boys Club – Deadline

She keeps a list of men who abandoned her. She’s okay with it. She also maintains a list of men who prevented her from participating in concerts.

Lesley Stahl this week begins her 30th year as a top 60 minutes corresponding, a role model for women who have not only survived, but thrived in important sectors of the media business.

With unscripted television coming back to life, it’s worth noting that there is still one show that dates back to 1968 – a living variant of Perfect Dog, Whac-A-Mole, Love Island or the other heavy artillery of Reality Week.

Today, it can be argued that the news industry is run by women, both in front of the camera and behind – perfect examples of the not-so-silent revolution in the media world. Covid survivor Stahl, 80, got her first job thanks to the 1970s version of affirmative action. This meant apprentice-level opportunities to work for alpha male bullet breakers like Mike Wallace and Don Hewitt.

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Wallace taught him how to have interesting conversations with reporters, which often resulted in self-immolation – “ambush interviews” with hidden cameras. Besides being his instructor, Wallace wasn’t above stealing stories if he felt they were promising.

Lesley stahl
Lesley Stahl covering the 1976 CBS election

Noticing that Stahl was focusing on an emerging star named Barbra Streisand, Wallace deftly stole the young journalist’s contact details and research notes, confiscating what was to become a classic. 60 minutes room. Wallace even caused the gritty star to cry as she spoke about her education in Brooklyn.

Even as Stahl was showing up on TV, I was checking out my first job as a Hollywood studio executive and from afar I could appreciate his transition essays. The first Paramount colleague to greet me happily announced, “Welcome to the boys’ club.” Her name was Andrea Eastman and, as head of the casting, she was the only woman I had to work with for the next decade.

She was smart, attractive and, like Stahl, skilled in survival weapons. His advice on casting decisions was precise, but the final decisions on which films would be produced and by whom were made by the alpha males. Eastman never sought or got the CEO positions that are now regularly granted to women in post-pandemic Hollywood.

Meanwhile, Stahl was learning that the power in her world lay in the stories she and her producers boldly generated. Some involved fierce clashes with famous personalities who, in frustration, stormed the set mid-interview. These included one-off presidents like Boris Yeltsin of Russia, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Donald Trump. “I was bothered by these temper tantrums,” Stahl recalls, “because I still had urgent questions for them. On the other hand, their behavior and the resulting publicity made the stories more important. “

Given his gifts for skillful writing and steel delivery, Stahl continues to make complex subjects seem compelling. Lately, his articles have dealt with technical topics, such as the search for the origin of the coronavirus. She has moved away from her once-vivid profiles of Hollywood personalities because, as she perceives, stars and their managers have become “control freaks who want to carve out too many no-go areas where questions and cameras are off-limits.”

In its early days at 60 minutes, the tone of the show was set by Hewitt, the boisterous personality who created the show and took it to the top of the charts. Hewitt’s mandate was that each story was built around a single personality, thus leading the narrative reader to journalistic forays. A “lighter” piece has always been programmed as the third act – the profile of a celebrity or a sports hero or, better yet, a child prodigy.

Current boss Bill Owens, a dedicated journalist, has deviated from that formula, focusing on breaking news while sacrificing, for some viewers, some of the show’s entertainment value. His correspondents, too, are much gentler, devoid of the semi-murderous rigor of a Mike Wallace. Wallace’s advice to new correspondents like Stahl was to make interviewees feel like they were in a cozy neighborhood bar. There was little comfort in the hidden cameras.

Some of the misadventures of that time have been recounted in a new book, Ticking clock, by Ira Rosen, a long term 60 minutes producer. For Rosen, “Wallace and Hewitt were geniuses, but that didn’t excuse their Neanderthal behavior towards women, too many of them left in tatters.”

Stahl did not sign up for the victims class. “We had our quarrels,” Stahl recalls. There have been arguments over who gets the hot stories, and sometimes disagreements over the edits. “Let’s describe the relationship between the pen pals as sibling rivalries,” she says now.

If Stahl started today, she clearly wouldn’t be intimidated by the boys’ club or its satellites. In other words, if it still existed here or there.

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