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If I could put time in a bottle: The infamous "60 Minutes" stopwatch has been enshrined at the Smithsonian

'60 Minutes' stopwatch ticks into history

Web posted on: Wednesday, September 23, 1998 2:53:23 PM

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Like Archie Bunker's chair, the tick-tick-ticking stopwatch from the CBS news program "60 Minutes" was transformed from television prop to cultural icon Tuesday when it was placed in the Smithsonian Institution's popular culture collection.

The ticking stopwatch is the enduring symbol of the American broadcast industry's first and longest-running newsmagazine program. "60 Minutes" first hit airwaves 30 years ago, on September 24, 1968.

The stopwatch, which was placed in the National Museum of American History, joins a growing collection of television emblems: the original Howdy Doody puppet; the chairs used by Archie and Edith Bunker in "All in the Family;" Hawkeye Pierce's bathrobe from "M*A*S*H"; and the neon sign from "Late Night with David Letterman," his vehicle on NBC before he took his show to CBS and changed its name to "Late Show with David Letterman."

'I remember when ...'

On hand for the stopwatch's presentation were "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt and correspondents Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Lesley Stahl and Andy Rooney.

Known for its sometimes confrontational style of long-form journalism, "60 Minutes" is usually among television's top 10 weekly ratings winners.

"I remember when I was growing up," said senior correspondent Mike Wallace, "It was Jack Benny that I used to listen to on the radio at 7 o'clock on Sunday nights. And that went on and on, and he became an institution. In our own way I think we've done the same."

'We're still ticking'

"We were the first and thank God we're still ticking," said correspondent Ed Bradley. "We were the first at what we did, the first newsmagazine program. Today, the television landscape is littered with them."

Indeed, because of the relatively good ratings and low production costs of newsmagazine shows, all of the major networks and some cable outlets, including CNN, have newsmagazine programs. CBS is even planning to expand "60 Minutes" to a second night in addition to its traditional Sunday night slot.

Veteran "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer predicted that over time, the networks will broadcast newsmagazine shows less frequently -- but "60 Minutes" will keep on ticking.

"We will still be on and I think that is a distinct difference," said Safer. "I mean, we'll all be dead, but it'll still be on."

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