Morning Media Newsfeed: Logan Back at 60 Minutes | Judge Questions NSA | USA Today Expands

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Lara Logan to Return to 60 Minutes (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
Lara Logan and Max McClellan, the 60 Minutes journalists who were put on a leave of absence following their now-retracted report on Benghazi, are set to return to the program early next year, Politico has learned. Logan and her producer, who had unfinished projects in the works when they left in November, have started booking camera crews for news packages, network sources said. Their return could come as early as next month. TVNewser CBS News chairman and executive producer of 60 Minutes Jeff Fager held a meeting with show staffers on Dec. 5, according to Politico, where he answered questions about the botched report and indicated he didn’t know how long Logan and her producer would be off-air. 60 Minutes spokesperson Kevin Tedesco tells TVNewser: “Lara Logan’s return has not been scheduled. Beyond that, we do not comment on speculation.” Mediaite This news came on a day when the long-running newsmagazine faces another round of flak for a piece on the NSA widely panned as uncritical. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media CBS’s 60 Minutes has had a terrible year: Logan’s now-retracted Benghazi report was the sort of black mark that will take the newsmagazine years to live down.

Judge Questions Legality of NSA Phone Records (NYT)
A federal district judge ruled on Monday that the NSA program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, describing its technology as “almost Orwellian” and suggesting that James Madison would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way. The Wire The decision, responding to a lawsuit initiated by Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch, was written by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee. The lawsuit is a direct result of the leaks from Edward Snowden, the first of which came out one day before the suit was filed. AllThingsD In seeking to defeat a lawsuit challenging the legality of the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA, the federal government’s lawyers may have to prove that it’s really a necessary tool to help protect the country against terrorist attacks. Newspaper Alum The Guardian‘s initial report on the NSA has generated nearly 3.6 million page views since June.

USA Today Plans Countrywide Expansion (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
USA Today is planning to expand its coverage across the country, placing reporters in Miami, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and out in the Mountain West, editor-in-chief David Callaway wrote in an email to staff on Monday afternoon. The reporters, who will be both internal and external hires, will focus on breaking news and enterprise coverage in their regions and will “raise the flag” of USA Today in those areas, he said.

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HLN Hires Three New Programming Executives (TVNewser)
The winds of change at HLN continue, as network president Albie Hecht announced three new senior level programming hires Monday. Former BET and Spike TV executive Keith Brown joins as senior VP for programming. Kari Kim becomes VP of programming development, coming from Worldwide Biggies, which produces content for Disney, Spike TV and more. Former Nickelodeon VP Adrienne Lopez has been named special projects director. Ad Age / Media News The hires are the latest move by Hecht, who has shaken up both primetime and daytime, canceling Raising America, Now in America and Evening Express. The shows were replaced by re-airings of Showbiz Tonight and News Now. CNN’s sibling network recently debuted a health and wellness programming block that is part of Turner’s Upwave, but initial ratings put HLN at a new low.