'60 Minutes' look backs at Kroft's 30 years on show

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NEW YORK — Steve Kroft's 30th and final year at "60 Minutes" was the toughest.

Television's top news program hopes to wipe the slate clean with a new season starting later this month. But first, it takes a look back with Sunday's tribute to 74-year-old Kroft, who's retiring from the show.

The hour feature highlighted some of his 500 stories, and colleague Lesley Stahl interviewed Kroft near his Long Island retreat.

Year 30 was filled with turmoil behind the scenes at CBS, where longtime "60 Minutes" executive producer Jeff Fager was fired for sending a threatening text to a colleague working on a story about an investigation into his troubling behavior. Questions also were raised about whether he tolerated an abusive workplace. Charlie Rose, a "60 Minutes" contributor, was fired for sexual misconduct. After a period of uncertainty, Bill Owens was elevated to replace Fager, becoming only the third executive producer in the show's history.

"It was very hard," Kroft told The Associated Press. "It was just painful. It affected relationships on the floor because people were divided into camps."

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Kroft said changes at CBS News had nothing to do with his exit, even though Owens noted that he and Kroft "didn't always see eye to eye." Kroft said 30 years at "60 Minutes," 40 years at CBS News and 50 years in the business were round numbers that made the timing right. Kroft said he wanted to leave while he has the ability to try new things.

"I never lost passion for the stories," he said. "I lost passion for what it takes to do the job. If you do the job right at '60 Minutes,' it's really exhausting, and I notice that more in my 70s than in my 60s."

Kroft set a high bar with beautiful writing and scrupulous reporting, Owens said. Stahl tells her former colleague: "you gave us depth."

Some of his best-remembered stories came during the financial crisis a decade ago and explained its complex origins. He did several stories about Barack Obama as a candidate and president — Kroft says Obama was his most interesting interview subject — and Hillary Clinton's famed "stand by your man" interview in 1992.

He showed the required versatility of a "60 Minutes" reporter, and Sunday's special looked back on stories about Chernobyl, Clint Eastwood, Clarence Thomas, Beyonce, Jerry Seinfeld and life on an island off the Scottish coast.


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