Lesley Stahl is one of my heroes. With her spunk, persistence and tough style of questioning, she has reached the top of broadcast journalism, earning 13 Emmys along the way. Now she herself has made the news for the interview that Trump cut short.
Stahl, 79, has been with 60 Minutes for almost 30 years, covering stories from Guantanamo Bay and Google to gospel for teens, earning 13 Emmys in the process, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. She helped break the Watergate story and spent 10 years as chief White House correspondent during the Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and part of the George H.W. Bush years, which she chronicled in her 1999 book, Reporting Live. Stahl has also moderated Face the Nation, hosted 48 Hours Investigates, cohosted America Tonight with Charles Kuralt and anchored several CBS documentaries. In 2015, she won broadcast journalism’s highest honor, the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Paul White Award for lifetime achievement.
In 2016 I interviewed Stahl in her office at 60 Minutes for a Hadassah magazine profile. She told me that the early days for women in broadcast journalism were not easy. “I had to maintain my looks and overcome my looks at the same time,” she said. “A certain, shall we say, rambunctiousness was becoming my trademark. So was my persistence,” she writes in Reporting Live. “If I wanted to be treated as one of the boys…I had to learn to ram and butt and poke and shove my way up to the front.”
Stahl has not changed her commitment to remaining as fair and balanced as possible—even when she has an opinion. (Among her concerns are climate change and the staggering cost of medication.) She weathered Trump's insults and remained as unruffled and focused as she was when she raced to a Tel Aviv café minutes after it was leveled by a suicide bomber. Still, she says, “I never think of myself as courageous, ever, ever, ever! Being in the moment in the pursuit of a story, that’s where my attention is.”
Despite all her journalistic achievements, during the 2016 interview for Hadassah Stahl was most passionate about being a grandma. She had just written a book, Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting (Blue Rider). “Throughout my career, I worked at suppressing both my opinions and my emotions,” she writes in the book. “I thought I had become the epitome of self-control. Then, wham! My first grandchild was born…. I was jolted, blindsided by a wallop of loving more intense than anything I could remember or had ever imagined.”
She urges grandparents to pass on their zikna--a biblical term for wisdom acquired with age—to the next generation. “Our grandchildren need us…. My wisdom is, find a way to help them, not just for them, but for you, too.”
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