Don had a legendarily short attention span. He bragged about it. He said he was as easily bored as the audience. So if Don yelled “Stop” in the middle of the screening, it was not a good sign—but not necessarily a disaster. He was bored, or annoyed, or more likely had a brilliant idea about how to drop one interview, expand another, and rearrange the structure to make the story interesting to him and the audience. Everyone who went through the process concurred: Don was a story-fixing genius.

If, on the other hand, he watched the story all the way through and the lights went up and he paused for a second and then said, “That is the best damn story I’ve seen all year,” I imagine the producer and correspondent slept well that night receiving high praise from the man who reinvented television news.

Betsy West is an associate professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and an independent documentary film producer. She was a producer at ABC News for twenty-three years, where she worked for Nightline and PrimeTime Live, and was executive producer of the documentary program Turning Point. She was a vice president at CBS News from 1998 to 2005.