BILL OWENS '60 Minutes' Second Hand6/06/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Bill Owens likes his job.
Owens, 41, is the executive editor at CBS News's venerable newsmagazine 60 Minutes, which makes him No. 2 under Jeff Fager, the executive producer.
"It's one of the last places doing real journalism," he says.
So, yes, it does beat digging ditches. And Owens should know.
Owens' first "job" at CBS News was in the summer of 1985, when he worked as a page at the political conventions. "I couldn't get over the fact that they were letting me answer the phones in the news trailer," he says.
When it was over, Owens, who grew up in Oyster Bay, N.Y., was back at his old job—manual-labor contract work on a Long Island estate—waiting for a call from CBS about a job as an assistant on the national desk.
By winter, he says, "I was starting to lose faith. The ground got really hard and I couldn't get the freakin' shovel into the ground."
The Towson State University grad snuck into the foreman's shack for one last call to CBS. The promised job was his.
By 1996, he had become senior White House producer for the CBS Evening News. It was Owens's years covering the White House with Scott Pelley during the independent-counsel investigation and subsequent impeachment of President Clinton that in many ways proved most formative.
"Talk about being under the gun in terms of a serious investigative story. Day in day out, 6:30 deadline every day, don't get one damn thing wrong or you're toast," says Fager, who was the executive producer of the Evening News at the time. "I just was so impressed with the work he did with Scott Pelley on that front. "
Pelley and Owens moved on to 60 Minutes II in 1999, and 60 Minutes in 2006 after 60 Minutes II imploded following Dan Rather's notorious segment about George W. Bush's National Guard service. Then, Owens went back to the Evening News, helping shepherd the broadcast through the bumpy transition from Rather to Bob Schieffer to Katie Couric.
When Fager invited him back to 60 Minutes, he was there in a second. "It's the greatest job in the world," he says. "People long, long before I was here really set the table; we're just trying to continue that tradition."—Marisa Guthrie