Sinner: New York Times TV reporter Jacques Steinberg, who begins his piece about 60 Minutes baffled by the runaway ratings success of “a news program that reports regularly from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “devotes nearly 20 minutes to an arcane underpinning of the financial crisis known as credit-default swaps.” (Actually, that piece about the economic meltdown was a masterful example of how to make an intricate subject understandable to everyone.)

Eventually Steinberg does manage to acknowledge that the “biggest factor in the increased popularity of “60 Minutes” this fall may be that it has redoubled its efforts to provide a deep, substantive exploration of the most pressing news of the moment.” But then he goes on to display an almost pristine ignorance of all of the show’s greatest hits–including Steve Kroft’s fabulous interview with Obama braintrusters David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, and Anita Dunn, recorded hours after the candidate claimed victory in Grant Park–and broadcast just two weeks ago.

For the record, here are some other reasons the show has soared in the last twelve months:

- Lara Logan’s balls-of-steel interview with Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf immediately after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

- Bob Simon’s shining profile of Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the most electric personality to light up the classical music scene since Leonard Bernstein.


- Scott Pelley’s devastating piece (produced by Henry Schuster) about Remote Area Medical, a group of volunteer doctors and nurses that was formed to provide free health care in the Amazon and the rest of the developing world—and now finds the largest need for its services in the United States of America.


- Steve Kroft’s evisceration of one of the Iraq war’s architects, former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith. Great moments included Feith’s inability to remember key points in his own book—the one he was on air to promote.

- Scott Pelley’s wrenching portrait of German citizen Murat Kurnaz, an innocent victim of American “extreme rendition,” and another great piece by Pelley (produced by Shawn Efran)—a
profile
of Kirk Johnson, a young American who has stepped into the breach left by the Bush administration to secure visas for hundreds of former Iraqi employees of the United States left stranded by our government in Baghdad.

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Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.