Tom Bettag

News Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-hour Archive interview, Tom Bettag talks about his educational background in journalism and the influence of Fred Friendly, who Bettag studied under at Columbia University. He chronicles his career at CBS as he moved up the ranks through the late 1960s and 1970s, ultimately serving as senior producer of the CBS Morning News. He discusses a pivotal moment in his career when he decided to accept a demotion in job title to allow him to get more field experience, before returning to news producing. He discusses working with Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News and the transition to Dan Rather as news anchor. Bettag speaks in detail about the journalistic style of both Cronkite and Rather. He talks about his tenure as executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather from 1986-91 and lists some of the important milestones of the broadcast. He then talks about his long association as executive producer of ABC News Nightline. He describes the daily schedule of assembling the show, the changes he made in the working methods of the staff, and comments on anchor Ted Koppel's strengths as a broadcaster. Karen Herman conducted the interview on June 14, 2005 in Washington, DC.

"Nightline has a great mission - to be able to do only one subject for half an hour tonight that is not trying to be the broadcast of record, is not trying to have any other obligation than to be interesting. When people tune in to Nightline at 11:35, they say, 'I wonder what Ted thinks is interesting,' and 'I wonder what Ted's doing.'"

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Tom Bettag on his first job at CBS News at the assignment desk
Tom Bettag on his years as senior producer of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on the 1987 incident of Dan Rather walking off the air during CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on a typical workday at ABC News Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's interview style on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on some of his favorite ABC News Nightline broadcasts over the years
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on how he got into television journalism studying under Fred Friendly; on going to work at CBS at Fred Friendly's insistence
On covering Watergate during his early years at CBS News; on covering the Vietnam War during his early years at CBS News; on the "rules" for reporting on Vietnam, and on what he learned from the experience of covering it

Chapter 2

On his time as a producer for CBS Morning News at one point anchored by Sally Quinn; on going to Japan to be an associate producer from the field for CBS News; on Dan Rather's notion of the "journalist's tripod"
On Walter Cronkite, anchor of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite; on Dan Rather taking over the anchor chair from Walter Cronkite for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather; on his years as senior producer of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
On the circumstances of his leaving CBS Evening News with Dan Rather; on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

Chapter 3

On covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein; on transitioning from producing the CBS Evening News to ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel; on the format of ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
On his duties at ABC News Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel; on working with the staff at ABC News Nightline
On a typical workday at ABC News Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel; on Ted Koppel's day-to-day involvement with ABC News Nightline

Chapter 4

On working with Ted Koppel on ABC News Nightline; on Ted Koppel's interview style on ABC News Nightline; on the kinds of topics Ted Koppel likes to cover on ABC News Nightline
On how ABC News Nightline has changed since he started executive producing; on Ted Koppel's decision to leave ABC News Nightline
On some of his favorite ABC News Nightline broadcasts over the years; on the 1987 incident of Dan Rather walking off the air during CBS Evening News with Dan Rather; on how he would like to be remembered
Shows

ABC News Nightline

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Tom Bettag on transitioning from producing the CBS Evening News to ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on the format of ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on his duties at ABC News Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on working with the staff at ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on a typical workday at ABC News Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's day-to-day involvement with ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on working with Ted Koppel on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's interview style on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on the kinds of topics Ted Koppel likes to cover on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on topics Ted Koppel would not cover for ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on how ABC News Nightline has changed since he started executive producing
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's decision to leave ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on some of his favorite ABC News Nightline broadcasts over the years

CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

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Tom Bettag on Dan Rather taking over the anchor chair from Walter Cronkite for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on his years as senior producer of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on the circumstances of his leaving CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein
Tom Bettag on the 1987 incident of Dan Rather walking off the air during CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

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Tom Bettag on Walter Cronkite, anchor of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

CBS Morning News

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Tom Bettag on his time as a producer for CBS Morning News at one point anchored by Sally Quinn

CBS News

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Tom Bettag on going to Japan to be an associate producer from the field for CBS News
Topics

Bloopers

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Tom Bettag on the 1987 incident of Dan Rather walking off the air during CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

Gulf War

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Tom Bettag on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein

Historic Events and Social Change

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Tom Bettag on covering the Vietnam War during his early years at CBS News
Tom Bettag on the "rules" for reporting on the Vietnam War, and on what he learned from the experience of covering it
Tom Bettag on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein

Richard M. Nixon

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Tom Bettag on covering Watergate during his early years at CBS News

Television and the Presidency

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Tom Bettag on covering Watergate during his early years at CBS News

Vietnam War

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Tom Bettag on covering the Vietnam War during his early years at CBS News
Tom Bettag on the "rules" for reporting on the Vietnam War, and on what he learned from the experience of covering it

War

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Tom Bettag on covering the Vietnam War during his early years at CBS News
Tom Bettag on the "rules" for reporting on the Vietnam War, and on what he learned from the experience of covering it
Tom Bettag on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein
Genres

News and Documentary

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Tom Bettag on his time as a producer for CBS Morning News at one point anchored by Sally Quinn
Tom Bettag on his time as a producer on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on producing CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on executive producing ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on executive producing ABC News Nightline
People

Walter Cronkite

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Tom Bettag on Walter Cronkite, anchor of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

Fred Friendly

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Tom Bettag on how he got into television journalism studying under Fred Friendly
Tom Bettag on going to work at CBS at Fred Friendly's insistence

Saddam Hussein

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Tom Bettag on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein

Ted Koppel

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Tom Bettag on transitioning from producing the CBS Evening News to ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on the format of ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on a typical workday at ABC News Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's day-to-day involvement with ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on working with Ted Koppel on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's interview style on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on the kinds of topics Ted Koppel likes to cover on ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag onn Ted Koppel's decision to leave ABC News Nightline

Dan Rather

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Tom Bettag on Dan Rather's notion of the "journalist's tripod"
Tom Bettag on Dan Rather taking over the anchor chair from Walter Cronkite for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on trying to land an interview with Saddam Hussein for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
Tom Bettag on covering the Gulf War for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and on landing an interview with Saddam Hussein
Tom Bettag on the 1987 incident of Dan Rather walking off the air during CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

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