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“Hey Mabel! Check this out!”

October 2, 2009

Picture 1

Mabel was Don Hewitt’s wife. Don Hewitt was the executive producer for 60 Minutes. Mabel helped Don decide if a story was interesting or not… in a phrase that is legendary still to the 60 Minutes staff, Don would know a story “had it” if he wanted to yell, “Hey Mabel! Check this out!”

Adorable, right? And accurate to boot. You have to be in touch with your audience, always.

That little anecdote came from a chat with Michael Radutzky this morning. Mr. Radutzky is one of two senior producers for 60 Minutes and has produced shows on Michael Jackson at the Neverland Ranch and the Duke Lacrosse case. He also was the only individual to interview Timothy McVeigh, the OK City bomber. He was even invited personally, by Timothy, to the execution. How? By offering up a whole lotta empathy.

The story matters. And so does your audience. So you do what you have to do to get the story. Radutzky did just that with McVeigh: he treated him like he mattered, like he was any other person, and he nailed the story.

With today’s technology and the emphasis on multimedia, we have the do the same thing, only more concisely and more episodic. It is imperative to boil the story down to its very essence, pique interest for more, and then provide the opportunities for access. YouTube, Twitter, and websites allow news organizations like 60 Minutes to do just that: they provide a platform where a short snippet can be used to pique interest and then link to a secondary platform that can provide access to the rest of the content.
Now more than ever before, writers much be top notch to catch viewers and the audience across this broad range of platforms and draw them into the meatier content. But still, the story matters. Without the story, you’ve got nothing.

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