“TICKING CLOCK: BEHIND THE SCENES AT 60 MINUTES”

What was it like to work with Mike Wallace, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Diane Sawyer and other longtime broadcasters on deadline and sometimes on egg shells? Tonight, award-winning writer and producer Ira Rosen tells all in an intimate and revealing conversation about the untold stories of his decades at America’s most iconic news show.

For more information on “Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes,” click here.

Aired on February 23, 2021.

 

TRANSCRIPT

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I AM JACK FORD.

FOR NEARLY 25 YEARS IRA ROSEN WAS ONE OF THE MOST PROLIFIC PRODUCERS FOR THE LEGENDARY '60 MINUTES.'

DURING HIS CAREER HIS WORK GARNERED AN ARRAY OF HONORS, INCLUDING 24 NATIONAL EMMY AWARDS, FOUR DuPONT AWARDS, AND TWO PEABODY AWARDS.

NOW HE HAS WRITTEN A BOOK THAT TAKES US ALL INSIDE '60 MINUTES.'

TELL US ABOUT HIS CAREER THERE, SOME OF THE STORIES, ABOUT SOME OF THE STORIED PERSONALITIES BEHIND THE SCENES AT '60 MINUTES' WHICH, BY ANY MEASURE, HAS BEEN THE MOST SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION NEWS SHOW IN HISTORY.

THE BOOK IS TITLED 'TICKING CLOCK: BEHIND THE SCENE AT '60 MINUTES.'

IRA, WELCOME.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

GREAT TO SEE YOU.

I MISS YOU.

AND YOU WERE ONE OF THE GREAT PEOPLE THAT I WORKED -- I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO WORK WITH AT ABC, AND, YOU KNOW, I ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU SAID THANK YOU.

WELL, I APPRECIATE IT.

AND I SHOULD TELL PEOPLE WE GO BACK MORE THAN 20 YEARS.

FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES AT ABC, RECONNECTED AGAIN WHEN YOU WERE AGAIN AT '60 MINUTES.'

I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY, WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOME STORIES FOR '60 MINUTES' SPORTS.

WHEN I SAW THE BOOK I SAID I HAVE TO GET IRA ON MOAT FOCUS TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

THE FIRST QUESTION FOR ALL AUTHORS, WHICH IS, WHY THIS BOOK AND WHY NOW?

A LOT OF THE BOOKS THAT HAVE BEEN WRIT BEEN TV HAVE BEEN FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE COULD CORRESPONDENTS.

DAN RATHER WROTE CAMERA NEVER BLINKS, MIKE WALLACE TWO MEMOIRS, LESLEY STAHL HAS WRITTEN ONE.

YOU NEVER HEAR ABOUT WHAT THE PRODUCER SIDE OF THE BUSINESS IS.

YET THE PRODUCER IS THE PERSON WHO FINDS THE STORIES, GETS THE STORIES, WRITES THE QUESTIONS, EDITS THE PIECE, PUTS IT TOGETHER.

AND I THINK WHEN THE MOVIE 'INSIDER' CAME OUT FOR THE FIRST TIME 20 YEARS AGO ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON BACK THEN IN THE EARLY DAYS OF '60 MINUTES,' YOU GOT A SENSE OF WHAT PRODUCERS DO IN SHAPING A STORY.

SO I WANTED TO ADD MY VOICE TO THAT NARRATIVE.

QUICK ANSWER FOR THIS, IF I CAN.

I WANT YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THIS.

AND I MENTIONED IT IN THE INTRODUCTION.

'60 MINUTES,' MOST SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION NEWS PROGRAM IN HISTORY.

53 YEARS AND RUNNING.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S MANAGED TO BE SO SUCCESSFUL FOR SO LONG?

I THINK IT'S BECAUSE THEY KNOW HOW TO TELL A STORY.

DON, IN FACT, WHEN HE WROTE HIS BOOK, WHO CREATED F '60 MINUTES,' IT WAS THE MAGIC OF IT.

YOU AND I HAVE BEEN IN TV FOR A WHILE.

THERE WAS A MAGIC WHEN WE WERE -- WHEN WE STARTED OUT IN THE BUSINESS.

THE MAGIC OF THE STORYTELLING AND HOW TO TELL A STORY.

AND I LEARNED THE ART OF STORYTELLING IN THE CATSKILLS THE SAME WAY THAT DON DID AT THESE OLD CATSKILL HOTELS LISTENING TO COMEDIANS LIKE JAN MURRAY AND RED BUTTEENS TELLING THESE STORIES, HENNE YOUNG MAN WAS THE GREAT ONE, TAKE MY WIFE, PLEASE.

NOW, THAT'S ALL OF FOUR WORDS.

IN THOSE FOUR WORDS, YOU GET A BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END.

YOU GET A SUBJECT.

YOU GET A MOTIVATION.

AND, YOU KNOW, WHAT HAPPENED WAS DON LEARNED THE SAME THING, AND EVERY STORY HAS TO HAVE A DESTINATION, A POINT WHERE IT'S GOING.

SO WHEN '60 MINUTES' BEGAN, YOU HAD MORLEY SAFER TAKING YOU ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

HARRY REASONER TAKING YOU TO THE WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE MEAL.

AND IT BROUGHT PEOPLE TO PLACES THEY NORMALLY DIDN'T SEE.

OF COURSE, THEY DID THE INVESTIGATIVE STORIES WITH MIKE WALLACE CHASE CHASING THE MEDICARE FRAUDSTERS DOWN THE STREETS.

IT WAS UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL.

I THINK THAT'S WHY IT WORKED SO WELL.

I KNOW YOU MENTIONED THAT DON HAD SAID THAT THIS WAS ABOUT THE ADVENTURES OF THE CORRESPONDENTS HERE, THAT THE PEOPLE, THE VIEWERS ARE COME ALONG ON THEIR ADVENTURES.

LET ME TALK ABOUT BEHIND THE SCENES.

AGAIN, YOU'RE THERE NEARLY 25 YEARS, WORKED A NUMBER OF THE CORRESPONDENTS, KNEW THE OTHERS.

BUT YOU TALKED CANDIDLY IN YOUR BOOK, YOU SAY IT WAS KIND OF A CUTTHROAT PLACE TO WORK AT.

I HEARD YOU MENTION IN ANOTHER INTERVIEW, SOMEBODY MADE THE ANALOGY OF KIND OF THE LIKE 'THE HUNGER GAMES.'

PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO SEE HERE IS SOMETHING SO SUCCESSFUL FOR SO LONG HUMMING ALONG.

YOU THINK IT'S A WONDERFUL, JOYOUS PLACE, YOU WALK IN, PATTING EVERYBODY ON THE BACK AND EVERYBODY'S HAVING FUN.

NOT THE CASE?

NO.

THERE WAS COMPETITION BETWEEN PRODUCERS.

THERE WAS A COMPETITION TEEN CORRESPONDENTS.

AND, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS SOMETHING CALLED A BLUE SHEET SYSTEM.

THIS IS A KIND OF A GOOD EXAMPLE.

BLUE SHEET SYSTEM IS WHERE YOU -- IT'S LIKE A QUITCLAIM DEED ON STORY.

WHOEVER GETS IT IN FIRST, HAS IT.

THAT WAS THE RULE.

SO YOU HAVE MORLEY SAFER WHO WAKES UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AT FOUR IN THE MORNING, READS 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' AND HE QUICKLY PUTS A CLAIM DEED ON A STORY THAT HE LIKED.

WELL, MIKE WALLACE WAS FRIENDS WITH ABE WHO RAN 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' AT THE TIME AND HE WOULD GET ABE TO SEND HIM 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' AT 11:00 AT NIGHT HAND-DELIVERED TO HIS HOME SO HE COULD GET A BEAT ON A STORY SO HE COULD BLUE SHEET BEFORE MORELY.

AND IF THAT DIDN'T WORK, WHAT SOMETIMES WOULD HAPPEN WAS MIKE WOULD SEND OUT HIS PRODUCERS TO STEAL THE STORY FROM MORELY.

AND YOU'VE GOT TO UNDERSTAND THEIR OFFICES WERE THIS FAR APART.

THEY LITERALLY WERE NEXT DOOR TO EACH OTHER.

SO THERE WOULD BE PERIODS OF TIME AFTER ONE OF THESE THIEVERIES THAT MIKE WOULDN'T BE TALKING TO MORELY OR MORELY WOULDN'T BE TALKING TO MIKE.

AND --

YOU SAID MONTHS OR EVEN YEARS MIGHT GO BY?

YEAH, AND NOT ONLY BETWEEN CORRESPONDENTS, BUT, YOU KNOW IRK HAD A SITUATION WHERE I DID A STORY ON NICKI BARNES, A BLACK HEROIN DEALER IN HARLEM, AND ED BRADLEY THOUGHT I STOLE THE STORY FROM HIM.

HE DIDN'T TALK TO ME FOR 15 YEARS.

15 YEARS.

I WAS AT A FRIEND'S BACHELOR PARTY THAT I FINALLY SAID, YOU KNOW, ED, IT'S BEEN 15 YEARS.

HE SAID, REALLY?

SO WE KIND OF SHOOK HANDS AND BEGAN OUR FIRST CONVERSATION IN A WHALE.

THEY HOLD GRUDGES.

THEY HELD GRUDGES.

IT WAS VERY -- AND IN MANY WAYS I THINK DON WANTED TO HAVE THAT AS SORT OF THE ENVIRONMENT.

HE WANTED PEOPLE TO BE COMPETING.

HE WANTED PEOPLE TO FEEL A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE.

AND PUSH THEMSELVES, PUSH EACH OTHERS TO GET THE STORIES ON?

RIGHT, AND THERE WERE RIVALRIES BETWEEN PRODUCING TEAMS.

Y YEARS LATER I WANTED TO DO A PROFILE ON GOLDMAN SACHS BECAUSE I WAS FACETTED BY THE FACT THAT THEY FIRED THE BOTTOM 10% EVERY YEAR I WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED -- THE PEOPLE WHO GET JOBS AT GOLDMAN, YALE, HARVARD, PRINCETON, THEY ARE ACCOMPLISHED PEOPLE, SALUD TOREIONS AND VALEDICTORIANS AND YOU ARE FIRING THE BOTTOM 10%. SEEMS A LITTLE UNFAIR.

THAT KIND OF HAPPENED AT '60 MINUTES,' TOO.

EVERY YEAR, EVERY TWO YEARS, MIKE WOULD GET RID OF ONE OR TWO PRODUCERS OR TRADE THEM IN FOR SOMEBODY ELSE.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN -- THERE WERE RIVALRIES BETWEEN US.

WHAT WAS ONE --

LET ME ASK YOU, BECAUSE A GOOD PORTION OF THE BOOK FOCUSES ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MIKE WALLACE.

SURE.

STARTED -- I AM GOING TO LEAVE THE STORY FOR THE READERS BECAUSE IT'S A GREAT STORY ABOUT HOW YOU AT 26 WITH VERY LITTLE EXPERIENCE END UP GETTING YOUR JOB HERE AND WITH MIKE WALLACE, HOW YOUR MOTHER WAS KIND OF INVOLVED IN TAKINGLE CALL FROM DON AND SAID TO DON, HE IS FINE, HE HAS A JOB AND HANGS UP.

YOU FIND OUT, MOM, I WANT THAT JOB.

BUT THAT'S A GREAT STORY IN THERE.

BUT YOU DO TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MIKE WALLACE AND YOU WORKED WITH HIM FOR YEARS, AND ALMOST DESCRIBE IT AS SORT OF A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP.

IT WAS.

AND I THINK THAT I WAS 26.

I HAD FOUR TO SIX MONTHS OF TV EXPERIENCE.

I DIDN'T KNOW VERY MUCH.

AND I'M BEING MENTORED BY THE PICASSO OF INTERVIEWERS.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I AM ALSO, YOU KNOW, BEING, IF YOU WILL, ABUSED BY THE PICASSO OF INTERVIEWERS, WHO KNEW WHAT BUTTON TO PUSH TO GET A REACTION OUT OF A PERSON.

HE ALSO DID IT WITH HIS PRODUCERS.

I AM NOT SURE IF I WOULD HAVE COMPLETELY SURVIVED HAD I BEEN IN NEW YORK THE ENTIRE TIME.

YOU KNOW, DURING A PERIOD OF MY TIME AT '60 MINUTES' WORKING WITH MIKE I WENT TO WASHINGTON.

SO WHEN HE WOULD CALL ME, I WOULD LITERALLY SOMETIMES JUST PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND LET THE YELLING AND SCREAMING, YOU KNOW, GOING THROUGH THE NEWSPAPER AND, YEP, OKAY.

AND, YOU KNOW, SO I THINK THAT HELPED A LOT.

ALSO, YOU KNOW, WE ONLY DID MAYBE FOUR OR FIVE STORIES A YEAR WITH EACH OTHER.

SO I KNEW THAT I JUST HAD TO SURVIVE THOSE MOMENTS IN TIME WITH HIM.

I DIDN'T HAVE TO ENDURE IT ON A DAILY BASIS.

AND OTHER PEOPLE HAVE SAID THIS ABOUT MIKE.

A GENIUS, BUT A VERY DIFFICULT, MA MANY WAYS TROUBLED MAN.

YOU TALK ABOUT HIS GENIUS.

ALL OF US LEARNED FROM WATCHING MIKE WALLACE.

I REMEMBER DOING AN INTERVIEW A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND I WAS SORT OF CONFRONTING THE INTERVIEW SUBJECT WITH HARSH WORDS SOMEBODY ELSE HAD SAID.

AND I REMEMBER SAYING TO HIM, LET ME READ THIS TO YOU.

I SAID, THE PERSON SAID THIS ABOUT YOU.

AND I THEN I SAID, HIS WORDS, NOT MINE.

A AS IF I WAS APOLOGIZING.

I LOOKED AND I SAID, HIS WORDS, NOT MINE.

I LOOKED AT THE VIDEO OF IT AFTERWARDS AND SAID, THAT'S MIKE WALLACE.

I STOLE THAT FROM MIKE WALLACE, RIGHT?

YOU DID.

YOU DID.

BECAUSE WHEN HE DID THE INTERVIEW WITH THE AYATOLLAH, HE SAT THERE AND HE WAS QUOTING WHAT SADDAM SAID ABOUT HIM, THAT HE WAS A LUNATIC.

HE SAID, HIS WORDS, NOT MINE.

EXACTLY.

AND I DIDN'T THINK ABOUT IT, BUT IT WAS SUBCONSCIOUS, BUT SOMETHING I LEARNED FROM HIM.

LET ME ASK YOU TO DO SORT OF A FLASH CARD THING HERE.

SO MANY GREAT STORIES IN THIS.

BUT YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE DIFFERENT PEOPLE YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED.

AGAIN PRESIDENTS AND SIGNIFICANT IMPACTFUL STORIES, AND SOME DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES.

I AM GOING TO THROW OUT A GAME.

JOHN GOTTI JR.

GANG TER POET.

TAUGHT ME MORE ABOUT ORGANIZED CRIME THAN 40 YEARS OF COVERING ORGANIZED CRIME.

AND YOU DEVELOPED A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.

IT TOOK YOU FOUR YEARS TO ENTER VOW HIM.

TOOK ME FOUR YEARS, AND I LEARNED AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT FROM HIM ABOUT HOW ORGANIZED CRIME THINKS, MAKES MONEY, HOW THEY INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER.

TALK ABOUT 'THE HUNGER GAMES.'

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE TRYING TO SURVIVE ON A DAY IN BASIS -- I KNOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FLASH CARDS.

ONE THING THAT JOHN TEECHD ME, WHICH I INCORPORATED IN MY LIFE, WHICH WAS JOHN USED TO AT THE END OF A DAY TAKE A CIGAR AND SIT ON THE BACK PORCH AND RELIVE AND RECOUNT ALL THE CONVERSATIONS HE HAD THAT DAY.

WHEN A FRIEND MAY HAVE TURNED INTO AN ENEMY OR AN ENEMY MAY HAVE TURNED INTO A FRIEND, AND IT REFLECTED HIM AND IT WAS SURVIVAL TACTIC BECAUSE HE WAS TRYING TO THINK BACK TO SOMETHING HE MAY HAVE MISSED IN CONVERSATIONS.

AND IT'S SOMETHING WHICH I THINK IS A GOOD THING TO DO, REFLECT ON YOUR DAY, EVEN IF IT'S ONLY A FEW MINUTES.

THINK BACK, WAS I OKAY WITH THAT PERSON?

DID I HONOR THE PERSON?

DID I SAY SOMETHING MA THAT I HAVE BEEN WRONG AND YOU CAN CLEAN IT UP IN THAT DAY OR THAT MOMENT AND THAT'S ACTUALLY SOMETHING I LEARNED FROM GOT IT I.

I WILL LEAVE KIM KARDASHIAN AND TOM BRADY FOR PEOPLE TO READ.

I WANT TO END WITH ONE OF THE LAST SIGNIFICANT STORIES ABOUT THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC.

A POWERFUL, IMPACTFUL STORY, IMPACT ON SOCIETY, AND THEN YOU DECIDED IT WAS TIME FOR YOU TO WALK AWAY FROM '60 MINUTES.'

WHY?

WELL, IT WAS -- I HAD JUST COMPLETED THE BEST WORK.

MY ENTIRE -- IN MANY WAYS, MY ENTIRE CAREER HAD BEEN BUILT TOWARDS THAT MOMENT WHEN I DID THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC STORY.

YOU KNOW, ENDED UP WINNING THE PEA FWOED AND DuPONT AND EMMY AND A MILLION OTHER THINGS.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT REALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE.

IT CHANGED THE WAY THAT CONGRESS DEALT WITH THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC, CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS WERE SPARKED, CONGRESSMAN MARINO, WHO IS GOING TO BE TRUMP'S DRUG CZAR RESIGNED WITHIN THREE DAYS OF THE STORY AIRING.

AND I LOOK BACK AND I WAS READY.

I MEAN, I HAD -- YOU HAD JUST DONE -- IT'S LIKE AC ACTOR WHO HAD JUST DONE HIS MOST AMAZING ROLE.

POSSIBLY COULDN'T GET ANY BETTER?

YEAH, WHAT ARE YOU GOING DO AS THE SECOND ACT?

s A JOURNALIST, YOU DID A LAST STORY THAT HAD AN ENORMOUS IMPACT.

WE COULD TALK FOR HOURS ABOUT THIS.

BUT AGAIN, IT'S CALLED TICKING CLOCK BEHIND THE SCENES AT '60 MINUTES' IT'S A MARVELOUS REEDER READ, A THOUGHTFUL READ AND ENTERTAINING READ.

JUST GREAT WORK BY YOU.

I AM NOT SURPRISED.

I MEAN, WORKING WITH YOU IN THE PAST.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND TALKING ABOUT THIS.

GOOD LUCK WITH THE BOOK AND YOU AND I WILL TALK SOON.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TAKE CARE.

YOU, TOO.

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