and said, “Would you be open to doing nonsports sto- ries?” So I did a piece on Viola Davis. I’d never met her. She’d never met me. We just kind of hit it off. Those are nice moments when you just have a conversation and a connection with people. Owens: Jon Wertheim is one of the finest writers in television journalism. He’s an editor at Sports Illustrated . So he also thinks like an editor. But his writing is so original and colorful that it brings a smile to your face. He reminds me of Morley Safer and Bob Simon. He did a story about this retired couple in Indiana who figured out how to win the state lottery because the guy was a retired accountant; they won millions of dollars. But the line that I’ll never forget was when [Jon] talked about the town, a small town in Indiana where they live. He said, “It’s a town that’s so small that it gets lost in the folds of a map.” Who thinks like that?
China is using bio data. There was so much legwork. It was just gnarly in the sense that I really had to learn on the fly. Which is half the fun of this job, too. One week you do something on Eurovision, and the next you do something on ballet, and next you do something on Sue Bird. That’s part of the beauty of the job to me. Scott Pelley: In 1997, CBS had just made me the chief White House correspondent. The bureau chief in Washington said, “Who do you want for a producer?” I said, “Let me have the person who’s been doing it a long time,” because I needed that expertise. And they said, “Well, that’s Bill Owens.” And Bill and I have been partners ever since. We had a trial by fire because about six months after my arrival at the White House, the Monica Lewinsky story broke. Bill said, “You know, we can never be wrong, because we are working on an investigation involving the president of the United States.” And that tells you a great deal about Bill. He understood what the stakes were immediately, and he understood that a lot rested on our shoulders covering the White House for CBS News writ large. And we really could never be wrong. The Storytelling Whitaker: For me the story that had the greatest impact was the series we did on opioids. It was hard hitting and shone the spotlight on an issue of real importance in the United States and was also talking about the complicity of the drug industry, our legislators, our congresspeople. That’s why I do this: to have an impact, to make things clear to people so they can stand up and say, “I don’t want my country doing that.” Owens: With Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, and Tony’s family, we wanted to talk with them about why they wanted to do this story. And part of the reason was for awareness for other families who are dealing with dementia, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and Alzheimer’s. So it took us a minute to figure out that we needed to speak to his doctor. There needed to be a kind of empirical medical component to the story. I think some people think, They did Lady Gaga. That must be fun . That piece took a lot of care. The same amount of muscle goes into each story. Cooper: I was interested in Alzheimer’s and figuring out ways to tell some aspect of that story. When I heard that Tony’s family was willing to allow us into this sen- sitive time, to be with them and spend time with them, it was an extraordinary act of courage on their part. Wertheim: Bill at one point called me into his office
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER • 2022
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