Covering the Gulf Oil Spill, One Story at a Time

Donna Francavilla, CBS Radio News Reporter, Oil Spil Story

Covering the Gulf Oil Spill, One Story at a Time

By Donna Francavilla, Owner, Frankly Speaking Communications

Donna Francavilla, CBS Radio News Reporter, Oil Spil StoryAs sticky, thick, black oil washed ashore the Gulf of Mexico’s pristine powdery, white beaches, ruining livelihoods, killing sea life and becoming the worst environmental disaster the U.S. has faced, reporters were dispatched to cover the story. Most reporters operated as one-man bands, a trend in the industry. They dealt with emotional victims and faced technological challenges.

CBS Radio News Correspondent Peter King was on the scene early on, returning multiple times to Louisiana and once to the Panhandle, where he spoke to the people in the fishing and tourism industry.

In one report, one he termed a “picture-postcard,”, King wove audio seamlessly into his story.  King referred to grating sounds of angry seagulls as they flew overhead. The veteran journalist indicated the birds weren’t the only ones who were angry about the oil spill. The owner of a fishing lodge and marina told King about how cancellations were pouring in. The exasperated man said he had just finished rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. King captured frustration in the man’s voice. The emotion was amplified by the agitating sound of screeching seagulls. The listener could feel this man’s unfolding tragedy. In 30 seconds, the piece packed a powerful punch.

What is this veteran radio reporter’s secret? King said he spoke to “real people,” and focused how the spill was negatively affecting “their lives, their livelihoods, their way of life and how they feel like they are loosing everything.”

This award-winning journalist’s greatest challenge in covering this story was the depth and breath he provided.

“The area is across such a wide field, there is so much to cover; yet you want to find other stories other reporters haven’t done,” he said. “And as this story goes on for weeks and months, that’s becoming more and more of a challenge.”

King’s advice? “Go out there with an open mind. Don’t go out there with pre-conceived notions. Always listen. Always know where food is and where the bathroom is because you’ll never know when you’ll eat again and when you’ll go to the bathroom again. Expect to get by on very little sleep when doing a story like this.”

Fox Radio News Senior National Correspondent Rich Johnson didn’t file television reports but sometimes fed material from a television satellite truck. He said his dilemma at the satellite truck wasn’t getting a signal out, but rather getting a connection so that he could hear his cue from anchors who were introducing him. They could hear him just fine, but he couldn’t hear them.

Often cell signals were non-existent, landlines were too far away from beaches and Internet signals were low. Johnson said he remained versatile. The news veteran filed anyway he could. Sometimes he used a landline, other times a cell phone, satellite phone or skype.

Johnson said what he found most compelling was how this story unfolded. First came the cancellations, followed by scarce business at the height of tourist season. When the oil arrived, so did the tears as residents wondered how they going to feed their families.

“I went into a low-budget Italian pasta-pizza joint like you’d see all over New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and I was the only customer,” he said.

Colleagues Peter King and Rich Johnson both agreed that when they are covering stories in which people are distraught, they feel honor-bound to watch, listen, report accurately, while capturing the emotions they observe.

Many reporters say they set aside their intense feelings while the story is unfolding, only to decompress when back home.  Said Johnson, “I’m thinking about more now that I left and am back here.”

King says, “If you are not feeling the emotion, you must be some kind of idiot. As a reporter, I feel maybe telling the story is going to help (victims) in someway. But you absolutely have to stay focused on doing the story justice, rather than getting caught up in your own emotion.”

King admits, “How has this story affected me? It’s heartbreaking. In many cases, the people we’re covering are the ‘have-nots’. They don’t have a lot to begin with, and now are losing everything.”

ABC News Radio dispatched Matt Gutman to the scene. According to Steve Jones, Vice-President of ABC Radio, Gutman demonstrated versatility when he fed reports back to the news bureaus for broadcast on radio and television. Jones said Gutman is a rising-star in part, because he can shoot, produce, and edit for radio and television audiences.

ABC is proactive in preparing journalists to work on a number of platforms.  Journalists undergo one week of training in a new program called, “The Digital Bullpen.” 

Said Jones, “People who are expected to provide content for multiple platforms go through this one week of training. There is a radio component to it for ABC News Radio so that folks who don’t have radio training understand what it is we need. Conversely, we have trained all our radio reporters in how to shoot video; they do  very little editing. We are not throwing anyone into a situation where they will not be confident in their abilities.”

Kim Rankin seems confident in her abilities to do it all when out in the field. Rankin, a reporter for CBS affiliate WIAT-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, shot, produced, voiced and edited reports for 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. She even has learned how to operate the satellite truck, if needed. Rankin loads her video into her laptop and uses FTP to feed it back to the news station in Birmingham.

I caught up with her as she was wiping taffy-like thick ooze off of her shoes and clothes in Orange Beach, Alabama. Rankin said, “You want to capture the best video, the best sound and the best story, and our best story is in the middle of the oil.” 

Unlike volunteers who were wearing HAZMAT protective clothing, she was feeling vulnerable to the elements. Her biggest challenge was trying to keep the nasty, sticky oil off her skin and her gear.

Her advice for journalists? Hand-out business cards, ask for tips, ask people to call if they see news, and write down contact information of everyone you meet, then call them and ask what they know and if an interview can be scheduled. She also advises reporters to call contacts in the city you are driving to set up stories.

Frankly Speaking Communications owner Donna Francavilla is a media consultant in Birmingham, a former RTDNA Director-at-Large, and a freelance journalist for CBS-TV, CBS News Radio, America in the Morning and Agence France-Presse.                         ###

It’s the Dawn of a New Political Era in Alabama

It’s the Dawn of a New Political Era in Alabama

Let’s face it. Alabama has been through it! Former Governor Robert Bentley resigned yesterday to become the 3rd of 3 of the most powerful public officials in Alabama to be ousted, resigned or otherwise loose their jobs in just ONE YEAR due to scandals. The other two were House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Chief Justice Roy Moore.

The so-called “Lov Gov, ” pleaded guilty to some misdemeanors and will pay back thousands to taxpayers and do community service. 

At a hastily-called press conference yesterday, Dr. Robert Bentley’s face was red as he looked down at the floor, and apologized, saying he let people down. “I’m sorry for that.” His alleged affair with a top staffer, the lack of cooperation with investigators, firing of a law enforcement official all lead to his political demise.

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey takes over with 1 year left in Dr. Bentley’s term. Ivey is a staple in Alabama in Montgomery and in Alabama politics.

This story has made headlines across the country. As reporter with CBS Radio, I’ve talked with hosts on radio stations in Irwin, Tennessee, Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Nevada, and was on air at stations in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

With this latest scandal, elected officials should be on alert to know that the people of this state expect better. Let’s move forward with an eye to forging a better future for all Alabamians. Have the storm clouds hovering over Alabama finally cleared? My fingers are crossed.

People on the move


Donna Francavilla
Radio News Reporter at CBS Radio News

National CBS Radio News Reporter, Donna Francavilla won a total of 7 broadcast and journalism awards from Alabama Media Professionals on May 10, 2012, primarily for her work in covering the killer April 27th tornadoes. The founder of Frankly Speaking Communications, LLC., picked up 4 First Place Awards for Radio Broadcasting: Prepared Report, On-The-Scene Spot Report, Best Presentation, Audiovisuals-Still Illustration and Multi-Image Slides and 2 Third Place awards for her Radio submission, Personal Column On The Air and for News Article Written Specifically for the Web. AMP even gave Francavilla a “Sweepstakes Award” for winning top awards in various categories. Since 1981, Donna Francavilla has worked in the broadcasting industry as a talk show host, news director, field producer, news anchor and program director. A former NBC 13 reporter, Francavilla has covered stories for CBS Radio News for the past 13 years.

Play your Trump


By Mark Potts June 11, 1990 – 

Eight-fifteen in the morning is prime time in the radio business. It’s the heart of the so-called “morning drive” period, when stations fight to grab the captive commuter audience with their most popular programming.

A spin across the radio dial in Washington at 8:15 a.m. offers proof: Top-rated WPGC-FM is playing En Vogue’s soulful “Part of Me.” WMAL-AM morning mainstays Harden and Weaver are joking, with appropriate sound effects, about a news story concerning a stolen train. WWDC-FM’s Greaseman is crooning a bawdy song that pushes the boundaries of good taste while titillating his largely teenage male audience. And WJFK-FM’s outrageous Howard Stern is being, well, Howard Stern. Meanwhile, at the far end of the AM band, at 1580, WPGC-AM’s Steve Chaconas is bantering with correspondent Ron Peterson. Chaconas’s friendly disc-jockey voice doesn’t sound at all out of place in morning drive. But the subject matter does: The talk is of the Nikkei stock index, gold prices and the commodities market. “How about Gorbachev’s visit last week?” Chaconas asks Peterson. “Any impact on the futures markets?”

This is not the usual morning radio fare. But WPGC-AM doesn’t sound much like other local stations the rest of the day, either.

Once one of Washington’s most popular Top 40 rock stations, WPGC-AM now is trying to scratch out a niche in the hotly competitive local radio market by offering listeners a business-news format. Instead of Madonna, Guns N’ Roses or Sinead O’Connor, listeners get regular reports on local and national business stories, investment tips and constant updates of the Dow Jones industrial average.

Some people might think that’s about as exciting as listening to grass grow, and truth be told, sometimes that’s true. But personalities like Chaconas, a one-time stand-up comic, bring some life to WPGC-AM’s steady diet of business news, and the station generally gives listeners a fairly comprehensive if not very deep overview of top local and national business developments.

“This is Business Radio 1580,” Chaconas said the other morning, leading into a newscast that included stories about a real estate deal for a new National Aeronautics and Space Administration headquarters building in Washington, a North Carolina bank’s reported effort to buy First American Bank and Sovran Bank’s decision to increase the supply of mortgage money to the District.

Later in the broadcast, there are phone interviews with local brokers who provide reports and opinions on stock and commodity markets. And in connection with a charity promotion the station is running, Donna Francavilla, WPGC-AM’s program and news director, does a live on-air interview with a corporate lawyer who has been listed as one of Washington’s top bachelors. “We’re trying to make our programming a little broader and … a little more interesting,” she said later.

WPGC-AM’s almost two-year-old business-news format, which is similar to those adopted by a number of other AM radio stations around the nation recently, reflects an ugly fact of life in the radio business: AM radio is practically a dying medium.

Once the dominant broadcast band, crackly sounding AM has been supplanted in recent years by clearer FM stations that are much better suited to playing music, the backbone of most radio programming. That switch has left formerly dominant AM stations like WPGC scrambling for a way to attract listeners and advertisers. As WPGC General Manager Ben Hill succinctly says, “AM radio has major problems.”

Specialized formats are one way that AM stations are fighting back. In addition to all-business radio, some stations around the nation are experimenting with 24-hour sports, ethnic offerings or even children’s programming in an effort to carve out a niche.

And that niche might be pretty small — WPGC-AM’s audience doesn’t even register in ratings surveys. But that doesn’t faze station officials, who believe they’re reaching an affluent audience that ratings services don’t count well. “I know the tiny audience I have is a real high-quality audience,” Hill said.

It’s the kind of audience that’s coveted by advertisers on the station like luxury automakers Audi, Infiniti and Jaguar, airlines Lufthansa, KLM and United, brokers Merrill Lynch and Prudential Bache and retailers Raleighs, Egghead Software and J.C. Penney. That’s the cream of the crop. The station also carries local and network advertising for all sorts of get-rich-quick investment schemes involving sugar futures, precious metals and the like.

Commercial time on the station costs $10 to $80 for a 30-second spot, a tiny fraction of the price on a more popular station. Nonetheless, Hill concedes that WPGC-AM has had “to kick and scratch for advertisers” because of its slim popularity.

However, he said, the station is making a small profit, in part because much of its overhead can be absorbed by its highly profitable FM partner, which operates out of the same facilities in Greenbelt and specializes in what is known as “urban contemporary” music.

The success of the two stations is good news for WPGC-AM and WPGC-FM’s owners, whose background is even more unusual than the AM station’s format. The stations are part of a chain owned by Cook Inlet Communications Inc., a group made up of a New York investment firm and several thousand Native Americans from Alaska who have invested a windfall from Alaska oil production in real estate, oil and gas, oil field services and one of the nation’s largest minority-owned radio and television chains.

Cook Inlet bought WPGC-AM and FM in 1987 as part of a large chain of radio and television stations it purchased for several hundred million dollars from the Marriott family’s First Media Corp. At that time, WPGC-AM was broadcasting the same programming as WPGC-FM — a leftover from the 1960s and 1970s, when the AM station was one of the most popular stations in town and the FM side was sort of an afterthought. But as FM radios proliferated in cars and homes and listeners discovered how much better music sounded on FM, the two stations followed the industry pattern, with the FM rising to prominence and the AM receding.

By 1988, WPGC-AM’s ratings had sagged to 0.3 percent of listeners in the Washington market, and Hill — who also had run WPGC-AM and FM under the previous ownership — wanted to try something different to find an audience for the AM station.

“We wanted to find a format that would be more of a boutique,” Hill said. “We knew the audience would be small, but we wanted to offer something the other guys weren’t offering.”

He settled on business news, a format that was just beginning to find adherents elsewhere in the radio industry. The Business Radio Network, a Colorado Springs-based operation that signed on in mid-1988, already had attracted a handful of affiliates, and WPGC-AM was its first station in a major market. (BRN now has 64 affiliates and at least one good-size competitor, Money Radio of Anaheim, Calif.)

“Business Radio 1580” went on the air in October 1988, at first heavily reliant on network programming but now a mix of locally produced, syndicated and network features.

An hour of programming generally includes at least four minutes of local business news developments, most of it rewritten from The Washington Post and other newspapers; features on local business produced by station staffers; contributions from correspondents in local brokerages and elsewhere in the business community; commentary from local conservative firebrand Lester Kinsolving and others; national business and stock market news from BRN and another network, Financial News Network; and national news, sports and weather from Associated Press Radio. There are plenty of traffic reports, on the theory that local business people spend a lot of time in their cars going from appointment to appointment.

On weekends, the station offers a variety of business call-in and investment advice shows, and evenings and Sundays feature the station’s only departure from business — sports talk shows that Hill and Francavilla think attract the same audience as business programming.

Francavilla, a radio news veteran who joined WPGC-AM shortly after it began the business format, has tried to increase the amount of local content and make the station sound like more than just a dry recitation of market figures and merger announcements.

“I tell my anchors, don’t be stuffy. Business news doesn’t have to be boring,” Francavilla said. “They have fun, and I try to encourage that.”

That doesn’t mean that WPGC-AM’s programming is exactly a laugh riot. This is, after all, business. But Chaconas’s comedy background is apparent in his on-air patter, making the station’s morning show fairly lively at times. Leading into a live report on Maryland elective politics from Annapolis correspondent Charlie Ross the other day, Chaconas cracked: “Any race updates? And Charlie, I’m not talking about the track.”

Another station highlight is a taped promotional plug that Francavilla coerced from Donald Trump: “When I’m in Washington, I listen to Business Radio 1580,” the embattled billionaire says.

“Dull, boring business news is exactly what {listeners} want when they tune in, but that doesn’t foster long-term listening,” Hill said. And as Francavilla said about the offbeat efforts to enliven the station: “We figure, what are we going to lose? Ratings?”

Ah yes, ratings. They’re usually the lifeblood of the broadcast business, but Hill and Francavilla claim they don’t care much about ratings. They argue that WPGC-AM has attracted a devoted core of listeners with an excellent demographic profile — mostly male, affluent, and between the ages of 35 and 54 — that appeals to advertisers despite the station’s statistically negligible ratings. The station’s call-in shows, for instance, garner strong response, according to station officials, proving that somebody is out there listening.

“From what I can tell, we have business junkies,” Francavilla said. “We have people who listen all day.”

WPGC-AM, with a powerful 50,000-watt signal that covers the entire Washington area, is competing for those listeners with a number of other local radio and television stations that have regularly scheduled business programming. Most notable is all-news WTOP-AM, which offers two-minute business news summaries twice an hour and has a full-time business editor, longtime Washington broadcaster and businessman Frank Barnako.

WTOP has one big advantage over its smaller rival — it’s on 24 hours a day. WPGC-AM is licensed under Federal Communications Commission “daytime” rules, which require it to sign on after sunrise and sign off at sundown — a real disadvantage in the dead of winter, when 7:30 sign-ons and 4:45 sign-offs cost the station much of its drive-time audience and give it barely enough time to cover the business day.

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However, the station recently won preliminary approval to broadcast around the clock, and Hill said it likely will expand its hours later this year, adding additional business and sports programming. In the fall, the station plans to broadcast University of Virginia football games on Saturday afternoons.

Still, WPGC-AM’s ratings likely will never touch those of WTOP, which, along with WMAL, is one of a handful of highly successful AM stations remaining in the Washington market. Station officials agree with broadcast-industry consultants that the business format likely appeals to a very narrow slice of the audience, though it is an audience that may be attractive enough to advertisers to make all-business stations like WPGC-AM tidily profitable over the long run.

“They have to offer a particular type of listener something that he can’t do without, and business radio qualifies as that,” said Jim Duncan, an Indianapolis-based broadcast consultant who publishes American Radio Report, an industry newsletter. “These people hope that they can find a very narrow niche and super-serve it, and thus be very profitable serving a very small piece of the big pie. … In general, you don’t look for huge returns. If you can get the thing break-even or a little above, you’re doing a good job.”

Hill’s goals for WPGC-AM are accordingly modest. “What we’re hoping for is a position on everybody’s car radio buttons,” he said. “If I could be everybody’s third-favorite radio station, I’d be a happy person.”

Charlie Rose accepts RTDNA’s Paul White Award

Charlie Rose accepts RTDNA's Paul White Award

Charlie Rose accepts RTDNA’s Paul White Award

Charlie Rose accepts RTDNA's Paul White Award

Read article on RTDNA website

By Donna Francavilla, RTDNA News

Charlie Rose, co-host of CBS This Morning and host of the PBS interview show Charlie Rose, said of the profession, “It’s a noble calling.“
In a one-on-one interview RTDNA, Rose was asked what he considered to be his best interview. He said the question was impossible to answer because, “What’s been great about my journey is that it’s about news. It’s about science. It’s about culture. It’s about sports and entertainment. It’s a range of human endeavor.”

Rose was chosen to receive RTDNA’s prestigious Paul White Award at EIJ16 in New Orleans for his significant contributions to broadcast journalism. He told the audience, “I know of no better place to seek the truth.”

Fortune Magazine said Charlie Rose has the most earnest, essential public-affairs show on the air right now. Of his show, Rose said, “What really makes a difference? Is there real engagement? Does someone look within themselves to tell you something you haven’t heard before.”
Rose summarized his 40-year career in journalism by saying it’s been “an amazing road for me. And he advised young journalists to pursue their chosen profession with great energy and hard work. He admitted that anyone who has been successful receives accolades because they work harder than anyone else. He offered this advice about the power of good writing, which impressed the crowd in the ballroom at the Sheraton New Orelans:  “One word can sum up a thousand pictures; one word can turn a good sentence into a great sentence.”

The Paul White Award is RTDNA’s highest honor and recognizes an individual’s lifetime contributions to electronic journalism.

Amy Tardif, RTDNF Foundation Chair told the collection of journalists present that in the world of broadcast news Charlie Rose is unique.  “At PBS, he raises all of his own underwriting. (That’s public TV lingo for advertising.) Tardif said that although he told Fortune magazine he relishes what this means for his independence, especially when it comes to choosing guests, Charlie Rose says it can be a source of frustration.” Tardif noted that when Charlie Rose gave the commencement speech at the University of the South in Tennessee this spring, the told graduates to “be crazy, be humble and dream big.”
Time magazine named him among the 100 most influential people in the world. He was named the recipient of the Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award last year. Charlie Rose told the group, “I believe in the power of questions.”

We asked Rose to name the biggest or best interview of his career, and he said it was an impossible question to answer:

Q & A with Lesley Stahl and Pierre Thomas

Q & A with Lesley Stahl and Pierre Thomas

Q & A with Lesley Stahl and Pierre Thomas

Read article on RTDNA website

By Donna Francavilla, RTDNA News

In a packed, standing room only session in Orlando, two veteran nationally-known journalists from competing networks were brought together. Shortly before receiving the top honors available from their peers, the pair sat side by side, taking turns answering impromptu questions before attendees at the Excellence for Journalism conference.

Lesley Stahl, the long-time 60 Minutes correspondent, was asked about which story she considered to be her biggest scoop. Stahl referred to her years at the White House. She said on the night of the 1980 convention, at a time when entire CBS team was mobilized on a story, she learned George Bush was chosen to as the Republican nominee for President, a surprise to everyone, including legendary anchor Walter Cronkite, who at first doubted her word.

But Stahl’s sources were correct and she broke the story.  Breaking that pivotal story launched Stahl’s career forward. It what a career it has been! Stahl is one of America’s most recognized and experienced broadcast journalists.  Lesley Stahl’s career has been marked by political scoops, surprising features and award-winning foreign reporting.  She has been a 60 Minutes correspondent since March 1991; the 2014-15 season marks her 24th on the broadcast.

ABC correspondent Pierre Thomas is this year’s 2015 John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award winner. Pierre Thomas is the Senior Justice Correspondent for ABC News. He joined the network in November 2000 and reports for “World News Tonight with David Muir,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline” and other ABC News programs.  Thomas was a key member of ABC’s team of correspondents covering the terrorist attacks of September 11, which earned the network a Peabody, DuPont-Columbia and Emmy Award. Thomas also participated in a “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” broadcast which won the Edward R. Murrow Award for best newscast in 2005, and was a key part of the ABC News team honored with two additional Murrow Awards in 2012 for the network’s coverage of the tragic Tucson shooting and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and in 2014 for ABC’s coverage that included the Boston marathon terrorist attacks. He received an Emmy Award as part of team coverage of the inauguration of President Barack Obama and, in 2011, the Houston Association of Black Journalists honored him with its Pinnacle Award. He was recently featured in the American Journalism Review, and in 2011 was the focus of an hour-long C-SPAN broadcast about his career and thoughts on journalism. In 2012, the National Association of Black Journalists named Thomas Journalist of the Year.

ABC correspondent Pierre Thomas is this year’s 2015 John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award winner. Pierre Thomas is the Senior Justice Correspondent for ABC News. He joined the network in November 2000 and reports for “World News Tonight with David Muir,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline” and other ABC News programs.  Thomas was a key member of ABC’s team of correspondents covering the terrorist attacks of September 11, which earned the network a Peabody, DuPont-Columbia and Emmy Award. Thomas also participated in a “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” broadcast which won the Edward R. Murrow Award for best newscast in 2005, and was a key part of the ABC News team honored with two additional Murrow Awards in 2012 for the network’s coverage of the tragic Tucson shooting and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and in 2014 for ABC’s coverage that included the Boston marathon terrorist attacks. He received an Emmy Award as part of team coverage of the inauguration of President Barack Obama and, in 2011, the Houston Association of Black Journalists honored him with its Pinnacle Award. He was recently featured in the American Journalism Review, and in 2011 was the focus of an hour-long C-SPAN broadcast about his career and thoughts on journalism. In 2012, the National Association of Black Journalists named Thomas Journalist of the Year.

 In the Q & A featuring both famous journalists, the audience wanted to know how long it took to get a 60 Minutes piece on the air.  Lesley Stahl said it could take a little as one day.  “I’ve done one live interview. I may be the only correspondent who did that. But it can take a year or more.”
Stahl pulled the curtain back on 60 Minutes a bit to let the EIJ15 attendees see behind the scenes.  “We’re supposed to come up with our own stories. If you come up with the story, you show you care about it, and show the bosses you were right. You show you are committed to it, “ she said.  Then she paused and explained, “We work as a team. Each correspondent has a team. Whoever has the best ideas; we go out and produce the piece. Afterwards, we write a note to the boss—a paragraph or two.”
Why don’t some story ideas make it to air?  “Some decisions are based on cost, if it costs too much to produce or if similar stories have been done,” those stories won’t make air, explained the news veteran.  But, she added, “We can fight for stories.”
After getting the nod, the producers really “get to work.” Lesley said, “I work on 4-5 stories at the same time. I am called in to the do the interviews. I don’t screen the videotape, they do. I have to rely on my memory. We write the story on paper. We think it’s brilliant. We put it on videotape and sometimes it falls completely flat—it has to do with a lack of energy or inflection. It’s like an oral exam. We go before the boss. Usually they tear it shreds.” Stahl told the audience that often she is given an opportunity to “fix it” before the story is reviewed once more.
 Pierre Thomas was asked about his workflow at ABC Television.  “I have responsibility for daily beat coverage and breaking news coverage.”  Sometimes breaking news dictates that Pierre is given just a couple of hours to get the job done.  Woken up in the middle of the night, “I dictated the story as I was driving in, by Bluetooth,” he revealed. Then he laughed, “I wasn’t breaking any laws.” Pierre was live on television just three hours later at 7 A.M.

Each correspondent humbly talked about his or her most embarrassing moment in the industry. Lesley Stahl admitted she wanted to resign after her live interview with Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Stahl asked Thatcher multiple times why she stood by President Ronald Reagan knowing full well that Reagan had lied to her. The first couple of times the question was asked Thatcher got twitchy. Then, according to Stahl, Thatcher snapped, and turned the tables on Stahl. Thatcher shot back, saying, “Why do I seem to love your country more than you do?” Stahl recalled, “I was a puddle of a blob on the floor. That was my worst time ever, and it was live.

Pierre Thomas reflected a moment before revealing his most humbling moment on national television. He said it happened while a new employee at ABC News. He didn’t think he ought to do a live shot during a terrible storm, but the producers disagreed and put him in danger. “The heavens opened up,” said Pierre. Said an eyewitness in the newsroom, “What are you doing to Pierre?” 
There was another embarrassing moment that came to mind for Pierre. It happened during the harrowing, stressful marathon broadcasts during 9-11. Pierre had spent hours responding to ABC News anchor Peter Jennings’s questions. When news anchor Ted Koppel took over for Jennings, the obviously exhausted Thomas answer Koppel’s question saying, ”Well, Peter….” If that error wasn’t bad enough, Thomas confessed, he did it again until a producer whispered in his ear, “Ah, Pierre, ah, you’re talking to Ted.
Both journalists were asked what advice they’d offer to young journalists. Lesley Stahl replied quickly as it’s a question often asked.  
“I was actually young once, so I should be able to answer that one,” she said with a broad smile, alluding to her long career in the industry. “Read everything.”  Stahl indicated that if you present your idea with confidence, your career would benefit from the effort. “Secondly,” she said, “Work harder than you ever think you’re going to work.”
How do you become good at the craft of journalism? “The secret is doing it over and over again. You will learn to be a journalistic writer. Get a job where you can go out and get a job where you can be a journalist,” said Stahl.  Pierre Thomas concurred saying, “Go somewhere you can learn. Put yourself in different situations.”
Lesley Stahl, now a proud grandmother who is starting her 25th year at 60 Minutes, described that essentially what she does has NOT changed over the years. Stahl indicated that unlike younger journalists, she has time to think, develop sources and follow through with the story.
Pierre Thomas reflected on his use of social media, saying, “I don’t tweet crap unless I know it’s a good story! You need to be careful, the best you can, with what you are publishing.”
The pair was asked about their start in a business that didn’t easily promote minorities or women.  Pierre Thomas said, “I believe diversity is extremely important in the newsroom.”
Lesley admitted that she was hired under affirmative action.
“I was lucky because my boss really wanted us to succeed. I don’t believe one story can kill you. I don’t mean that you won’t be fired from that organization. I believe that anyone can stand up and fight back. “  You just stay with it. You just don’t give up. Get yourself up and go back to the beginning.
Lesley Stahl indicated that each journalist should discover what skills they have which work for them individually. “You just have to do it over and over again.”  “Since I got my first job, I loved every day. I’m not kidding. I loved it every day.”
Pierre Thomas chimed in about his love for his job. “The great thing about this job is what Lesley just said. Every day is new and every subject is new. That’s the great thing about this job is to not have a cookie-cutter approach necessarily. “
Pierre Thomas believes some reporters could improve by just listening more carefully and more intently.  “Listen.” It drives Thomas “crazy” when a question is asked, but the reporter doesn’t follow up because they weren’t listening.
Thomas indicated that if he had to name most of his sources, he couldn’t effectively do his job. “Without that cloak, if you will, I would not be able to do what I do.” 
Thomas and Stahl were asked about how they viewed colleague former NBC anchor Brian Williams’ fall from grace. Stahl believes Williams “will and can bounce back.” Pierre said he agreed.
During a tender, humble moment between the two veteran journalists, Pierre turned to Lesley and said simply, “She is such a master journalist and I’m taking notes on everything she’s said.”