The very first episode of 60 Minutes aired September 24th, 1968 — a Tuesday night — without a trace of its trademark ticking clock.
Harry Reasoner opened that broadcast with these words: “Good evening. This is 60 Minutes. It’s a kind of a magazine for television, which means it has the flexibility and diversity of a magazine adapted to broadcast journalism.”
The concept was radical when it first debuted. Most news documentaries at the time were a full hour and focused on a single subject. But Don Hewitt, the broadcast’s creator who was known for his short attention span, decided to fill his 60-minute show with three stories, each about fifteen minutes long.
That first episode, excerpted in the player above, included an artistic short film called “Why Man Creates,” European commentators, documentary-style footage of U.S. presidential candidates winning their parties’ nominations and a report examining police brutality.
It’s clear that while the broadcast’s style may have changed, its goal has remained the same. “If this broadcast does what we hope it will do, it will report reality,” Mike Wallace said at the end of the episode.
“We realize, of course, that new approaches are not always instantly accepted,” Harry Reasoner added. “We’ll see,” responded Wallace.
Fifty seasons later, we’re glad the idea took.
~CBS, 50 Years later