Steve Kroft Wanted to be Don Draper

By Chris Ariens 

Reporting from the NAB/RTDNA conference in Las Vegas

Tonight he’ll accept the Paul White lifetime achievement award from the RTNDA, but this afternoon “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft took some time to talk about his career with a crowd that was mostly made up of the next generation of TV news reporters and producers who are learning news ways of newsgathering. Asked about the rise of “backpack journalism” and whether it might one day be the norm at “60 Minutes,” Kroft says, “I don’t plan to be around long enough to find out.”

Two of Kroft’s stories were shown. The first, a recent report on the explosive cost of Medicare and end-of-life issues facing families. The second, a 1996 profile of Jerry Seinfeld, which ranks as one of Kroft’s favorites.

“The secret to doing an interview like that is to have access prior to the interview,” he says. In this case, Kroft and Seinfeld had drinks the night before. He says CBS brass didn’t have a problem with profiling a competing network’s show, especially since it was going to be Seinfeld’s final season.

Kroft talked about stumbling into journalism in the early 1970’s. “I wanted to go to Madison Ave. and be Don Draper,” he says referring to the “Mad Men” character. “But I got drafted, and ended up working for ‘Stars and Stripes,'” he says, putting his Syracuse University journalism classes to good use.

His dream interview? Dick Cheney. But the former Vice President isn’t biting. Kroft says Cheney and Karl Rove “make hay” over bashing “60 Minutes” rather than coming on the show.

From the set-up, to the shoot, to the edit. Which part of the process does Kroft like best? The writing: “I think that’s what I do best,” he says.