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5-time Peabody Award recipient, Steve Kroft has been a pillar of CBS’s 60 Minutes for over 25 years. His long distinguished career is marked by historical exclusive interviews with leading political figures and in-depth investigative stories on significant matters such as the dilapidated state of the U.S.’s infrastructure.
Kraft’s first journalistic gig came shortly after he was drafted and deployed to fight in the Vietnam War, where one of his duties was escorting reporters to the front lines. He received a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in journalism, hosted a radio show from his station in Vietnam, and wrote for a military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. After the war, he worked his way from local television affiliates to CBS News. During his time with the broadcast giant, he traveled the world extensively covering the civil war in El Salvador, the U.S. invasion of Grenada, and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, which won him an Emmy Award, the first of twelve.
Since joining 60 Minutes in 1989, Kroft has scored several exclusive interviews with influential figures such as President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama. In fact, Kroft’s interview with Obama was the only one the President did after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Kroft’s riveting interview with former nurse Charles Cullen — who some say may have killed hundreds — marked the first time a serial killer appeared on 60 Minutes in its 46 years on the air.
Several of Kroft’s investigative stories have drawn international attention and awards including his reports from the contaminated grounds of the Chernobyl nuclear facility, his search for Saddam Hussein’s hidden financial assets, and his investigation on insider training in the U.S. Congress. More recently, Kroft broke the story of Jack Barsky, a Cold War Soviet spy who told him his story of living in the U.S. undetected for over a decade. He won his 12th Emmy in 2013 when his report on the failure to treat mental illness in America came on the heels of a rash of mass shootings, crimes often linked to mental illness.
Multiple Peabody and Emmy Award-winning Broadcast Journalist
Steve Kroft was named a 60 Minutes correspondent in May 1989 and delivered his first report that September. The 2010-11 season is his 22nd on the broadcast.
Kroft was chosen for the 2010 Paul White Award by the Radio, Television and Digital News Association (RTDNA) – the highest honor from the industry′s largest peer association. At the same time, he became the only 60 Minutes correspondent to ever win two Peabody Awards in the same year. One was for a story on the vulnerability to computer hackers of crucial infrastructures like the power grid, and the other examined the enormous sums of money spent prolonging the lives of dying Americans, bringing his total number of Peabodys to five. The year 2010 continued to bring more recognition, as he received a George Polk award for his report attributing wild swings in the price of oil to Wall Street speculation and an Emmy for his report on rising Islamic militancy in Pakistan.
In 2008, he landed what was arguably the biggest interview of the year: the first post-election interview with Barack and Michelle Obama. It was broadcast on 60 Minutes Nov. 16 to 25.1 million viewers, the largest primetime television audience of the season to that point. His joint investigation with the Washington Post exposing the deeply flawed forensic science of bullet lead analysis won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award earlier in 2008 and was one of four major awards he won in the space of a year. He won the Sigma Delta Chi award for the same story and the coveted Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University silver baton for an investigation into the disappearance of over $500 million from Iraq′s treasury. He also received the Fred Friendly First Amendment award from Quinnipiac University, one of the industry′s most prestigious recognitions, in May 2007. His considerable body of work also was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in September 2003. And one of his finest investigative stories, a report examining the conflicts of interest between military contractors and the government in the awarding of contracts, “All in the Family” (April 2003), earned him his a Peabody Award.
Many of Kroft′s other 60 Minutes reports have been recognized by awards committees. His report “America′s Worst Nightmare” (Oct. 2000), on Pakistan′s political instability, nuclear weapons and ties to Islamic militant groups such as the Taliban, won him an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University silver baton for a report the committee called “strikingly prophetic.” “I.N.S.” (March 2002), on the Immigration and Naturalization Service, was cited as one of the reports for which CBS News won the 2003 Overall Excellence Award from the RTDNA. Kroft also conducted the first television interview with Jonathan Lebed, the teenage stock manipulator who was the youngest person ever sued by the SEC. Kroft won an Emmy for a 60 Minutes segment about the risks posed to the nation′s water supply by the gasoline additive MTBE, now present in the ground water of 49 states.
Before joining 60 Minutes, Kroft was a principal correspondent on the CBS News magazine West 57th, after having been a foreign correspondent for CBS News based in the London bureau, a period during which he covered international terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, including the TWA hijacking in Beirut, the massacres at the Rome and Vienna airports by the Abu Nidal terrorist cell and the Achille Lauro hijacking. He also covered the war in Beirut and the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. His report for the CBS Evening News on the assassination of Indira Gandhi won an Emmy Award.
Prior to his assignment in London, Kroft was a correspondent in the CBS News Miami bureau (1983) and traveled extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean. During that time, he covered the civil war in El Salvador and the U.S. invasion of Grenada.
Kroft joined CBS News in January 1980 as a reporter in the Northeast bureau in New York. He was named a correspondent in May 1981 and worked out of the Dallas bureau (January 1981-May 1983). Before joining CBS News, Kroft was a reporter for WPLG-TV Miami, WJXT-TV Jacksonville, Fla., and WSYR-TV Syracuse, N.Y.
He was born Aug. 22, 1945, in Kokomo, Ind., and was graduated from Syracuse University in 1967 with a bachelor of science degree. He was honored by his alma mater in 1992 with the George Arents Medal, the highest honor the university gives to an alumnus. Kroft earned a master′s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Indiana University. He served with the United States Army in Vietnam as a correspondent and photographer for Pacific Stars and Stripes.
Steve Kroft discusses his 24 years with 60 Minutes, explaining how the show differs from typical journalism productions. He light-heartedly points out the irony that he is speaking to a group named the Deadline Club, when his next deadline is in three months time – one of many reasons that he does not classify the program 60 Minutes as a “news show.”
“In many ways, it was the first program to combine news and entertainment,” Kroft reflects, admitting that he tends to label his show “prime-time television” first and foremost.
While journalism has changed drastically within the last 10 years, he does not see the program changing too much, but the team does face the problem of finding qualified talent willing to travel the world to develop in-depth treatment of stories.
“It’s hard to find somebody…who’s really well-rounded,” he comments on how they’ve been searching various years for a full-time correspondent to no avail.
Influential journalist Steve Kroft provides an inside look at how news is reported and the effects it has on today’s society. Frequently he shares his perspectives on some of the intriguing stories he’s investigated and the possible steps audiences can take to respond to some of the problems his investigative reporting has spotlighted.
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