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 talked 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.'"

Highlights
Tom Bettag on racing to cover Kuwait and the huge break that CBS got when Dan Rather got the interview with Saddam Hussein
10:33
Tom Bettag on changing the rule at ABC News Nightline that everyone had to work until midnight: "that's why God invented beepers"; on trying to prevent staff burnout
04:39
Tom Bettag on transitioning from producing the CBS Evening News to ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
06:50
Tom Bettag on how ABC News  Nightline has changed since he became its producer in 1991
03:10
Tom Bettag on when Dan Rather walked way from the CBS anchor desk in protest of a sports event breaking into the news broadcast forcing the network and affiliates to broadcast six minutes of dead air
03:11
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood, education, and early influences
On turning to journalism and being heavily influenced by Fred Friendly, former President of CBS News
On getting started at CBS News on the assignment desk in 1969

Chapter 2

On moving from the Washington Bureau at CBS News in the early 1970s to CBS Morning News in New York; on covering the '72 convention as a producer
On his first trip out of the country to Southeast Asia and how finally working in the field changed him as a newsman
On his involvement in Dan Rather taking over the anchor seat from Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News and what they tried to change in the program; on the difficulties with the switch at the beginning

Chapter 3

On racing to cover Kuwait and the huge break that CBS got when Dan Rather got the historic interview with Saddam Hussein
On moving from CBS to ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel: on the goals he had with that broadcast
On his duties at ABC News Nightline; on trying to prevent burnout amongst the staff
On a typical work day at ABC News Nightline   and on Ted Koppel's role as anchor

Chapter 4

On Ted Koppel as an anchor; his interview style
On how ABC News Nightline has changed since 1991 when he was brought on as producer
On Ted Koppel leaving ABC News Nightline  at the end of 2005
On some of his favorite ABC News Nightline  stories
On when Dan Rather walked way from the CBS anchor desk in protest of a sports event breaking into the news broadcast forcing the network and affiliates to broadcast six minutes of dead air
On how he'd 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
06:50
Tom Bettag on the format of ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
02:00
Tom Bettag on working at ABC News Nightline and the long hours the staff worked
Tom Bettag on changing the rule at ABC News Nightline that everyone had to work until midnight: "that's why God invented beepers"; on trying to prevent staff burnout
04:39
Tom Bettag on a typical workday at ABC News Nightline
Tom Bettag on how ABC News  Nightline has changed since he became its producer in 1991
03:10
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel ABC News Nightline  leaving at the end of 2005

CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

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Tom Bettag on his involvement in Dan Rather taking over the anchor seat from Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News
Tom Bettag on racing to cover Kuwait and the huge break that CBS got when Dan Rather got the interview with Saddam Hussein
10:33
Tom Bettag on when Dan Rather walked way from the CBS anchor desk in protest of a sports event breaking into the news broadcast forcing the network and affiliates to broadcast six minutes of dead air
03:11
People

Walter Cronkite

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Tom Bettag on working with Walter Cronkite at CBS News

Fred Friendly

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Tom Bettag on how Fred Friendly influenced him while a journalism student

Ted Koppel

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On transitioning from producing the CBS Evening News to ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel
06:05
On Ted Koppel's involvement with ABC News  Nightline and his role as an anchor
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's confidence and talent as an anchor
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel's interview style; on his leaving the show in 2005
13:01
Tom Bettag on Ted Koppel leaving ABC News Nightline  at the end of 2005

Dan Rather

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Tom Bettag on what he learned from Dan Rather about the "journalists' tripod"
01:02
Tom Bettag on his involvement in Dan Rather taking over the anchor seat from Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News
Tom Bettag on when Dan Rather walked way from the CBS anchor desk in protest of a sports event breaking into the news broadcast forcing the network and affiliates to broadcast six minutes of dead air
03:11

All Interviews

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