Every week, it's a precious "60 Minutes."
Last night, it was more like four hours. Of which approximately 7 1/2 minutes went something like this:
"This is the first time in my memory that I've stood up with Don Hewitt without him telling me to keep it short," said Bad Boy commentator Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" executive producer and honoree.
"I mean, Don could take a minute thirty out of the Gettysburg Address," said Rooney. "If someone gave him the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin, he'd want a smaller pin or he'd ask the Lord to make it shorter if he could."
Warming to his subject, who was listening intently at the Sheraton Washington head table, Rooney went on:
"Don's office door is always open. Now I've heard that said about a lot of executives. But Don Hewitt's office door is literally always open. He's never there," said Rooney, "but his door's always open."
Even so, it was an unusually gentle ribbing Rooney sent in Hewitt's direction. And with good reason.
"I have known Don since 1942 in London when we were both distributing The Stars and Stripes and now we have a special relationship, Don and I," said Rooney, "it's uh, well, he's my boss is what it is so don't expect me to zing him here much tonight."
Don Hewitt was one of three newsmen to be recognized by the National Press Foundation at last night's huge annual awards dinner, where the audience was mostly media.
John H. Johnson, founding president of the Johnson Publishing Co, was cited for two of his magazines, Ebony and Jet. John C. Quinn, editor of USA Today's news staff, was given the NPF Editor of the Year Award. Quinn proceeded to catalogue the jibes thrown at the paper: "One of the 10 best products of 1982, right up there with Pudding Pops" and "junk food." He thanked the foundation for making "us all feel like we work for a real newspaper."
Hewitt was given the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, an award whose past recipients have been ABC's Ted Koppel and NBC's John Chancellor.
Applauding in the audience were "60 Minutes" staffers Harry Reasoner and Diane Sawyer, whose bright red suit stood out in the black-tie crowd.
"When I got in the car with the rest of the '60 Minutes' people," said Sawyer, "I realized I had come dressed for miniature golf."
Constantly grabbed by photographers and reporters, Sawyer grinned and fielded questions gamely, although one of them took her aback.
"My health habits?" she asked the reporter.
"Yes, for the readers, please."
"My health habits," said Sawyer, resignedly.
"I eat airline food. I sleep standing up, and I'm putting away a lot of money for a plastic surgeon," she said.
Hewitt himself launched into a serious speech that touched on exit polling, the relationship between politicians and television and political conventions, which he called "two big parties thrown by two big parties." At one point he suggested that maybe politicians should produce their own campaign shows.
"The Democrats could get Jane Fonda or Shirley MacLaine to be their anchor," said Hewitt. "The Republicans could get Frank Sinatra or Joan Rivers and we'd retire to the sidelines where we belong."
And if it comes to pass, maybe Hewitt will be there to see it. "I'm 63 years old," he said. "I'm about to sign another 12-year contract. That'll make me 75 and that'll be 50 years that I've been with CBS. And I'm gonna take another 10 after that."