This Day In History: September 24

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On September 24, 1968, CBS airs the first episode of 60 Minutes, a show that would become a staple of the American media landscape. A pioneer of the “newsmagazine” format, 60 Minutes is the longest-running primetime show in American television history.

The show was similar in tone and style to W5, a Canadian current affairs program considered one of the first newsmagazine shows. 60 Minutes intentionally portrayed itself as a magazine, with “cover” graphics and a variety of content that ranged from straightforward investigative reporting to editorials to more lighthearted commentary. Its first episode, aired on September 24, 1968, featured coverage of the Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey presidential campaigns, commentary from various writers and journalists, an interview with the Attorney General, part of an Oscar-winning short film, and even a high-minded discussion between the hosts on the nature of reality. 

Over its run, 60 Minutes has been known primarily for investigative journalism—termed “gotcha” journalism by some critics—including exposés on the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, the Abu Ghraib torture revelations and other corporate and political scandals. The “Point/Counterpoint,” segment, which featured two commentators giving the liberal and conservative sides of various arguments, was a 60 Minutes innovation that launched a slew of imitators and spoofs.

While the show has received criticism throughout its history for segments that contained incomplete or false reporting, it has remained the premier newsmagazine program in the country. A number of famous journalists and pundits, including Mike Wallace, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Leslie Stahl, Walter Cronkite and Christiane Amanpour have contributed to the show, which has won over a hundred Emmy Awards and 20 Peabodys.