Some Changes in the Works for '60 Minutes'

Television: Facing a challenge from 'Dateline NBC,' the CBS series will include one breaking-news story and a commentary each week. Summer reruns will also end.


NEW YORK — Facing a challenge from "Dateline NBC" this spring, CBS' "60 Minutes" is being revamped for the first time in many years and will feature more breaking news and more commentary.

Among the changes outlined to the show's staff Wednesday by executive producer Don Hewitt was the inclusion of one breaking-news story each week and the use of CBS correspondents outside the "60 Minutes" stable to report some of those pieces.

Hewitt also is hiring Texas political commentator Molly Ivins to do weekly commentary on the show. In a 1990s update of the "Point/Counterpoint" feature on "60 Minutes" in the 1970s, she will be joined some weeks by one of two other new "60 Minutes" contributors, social critic Stanley Crouch and novelist and conservative critic P.J. O'Rourke.

Andy Rooney will continue to do his weekly commentary.

In addition, the newsmagazine will end its practice of going into reruns for the summer, and it will be taped on Sundays instead of Fridays from now on.

The ratings for "60 Minutes," while still strong, have dropped by nearly a third since CBS lost NFL football as its lead-in two years ago. NBC has decided to take on the newsmagazine by expanding its "Dateline NBC" newsmagazine to Sunday nights at 7, beginning March 17.

In an interview, Hewitt downplayed the challenge from "Dateline" and described the changes, which will be implemented over the next several weeks, as "tinkering with the newsmagazine that everybody has tried to clone."

"You can't be on the air for 28 years, as we have, without thinking maybe the tires need changing," Hewitt said. "We've been in the Top 10 shows for the past two weeks. I'm always scared of anything that goes up against us. But what we do and what 'Dateline' does are two different things. I imagine they'll take more viewers away from 'America's Funniest Home Videos' [on ABC] than from us."

He cited Mideast correspondent Bob Simon's "60 Minutes" report on the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as an example of the kind of breaking-news stories that will be added. Former "60 Minutes" producer Josh Howard, who had moved elsewhere at CBS News, is rejoining the show to supervise the breaking-news coverage.

The "60 Minutes" creator maintained that the current "60 Minutes" stars--Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Morley Safer and Lesley Stahl--will not mind the addition of some new contributors.

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