Off' Derby Luncheon
working with 60 Minutes crew a challenge
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 2005) Watching the people
arrive April 22 at the Galt House for the Theyre Off!
Kickoff Luncheon for the 50th Kentucky Derby Festival was like watching
a Whos Who of Louisville on parade.
by Don Ward
Stahl greets the press
prior to her speech.
Many women arrived donning their finest Derby hats and
attire, while some of the men wore colorful spring jackets. Nearly 2,000
people in all assembled in the Galt House East Grand Ballroom for the
49th annual event and to hear this years keynote speaker, TV reporter
Leslie Stahl of CBS 60 Minutes.
With the citys 50th Kentucky Derby Festival about to begin, the
spirit was jovial among the crowd as they circulated among Mayor Jerry
Abramson, U.S. Rep. Ann Northrop, former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne
Collins, who is one of two Honorary Chairpersons of the event, and guest
After an hour of socializing, then lunch and brief remarks by the various
dignitaries and corporate sponsors, Stahl took the stage to reminisce
about her early career climb in a world dominated by men.
Its great to be here in Louisville, but I regret that I
wont be able to see the Kentucky Derby, said Stahl, who
covered Washington, D.C., politics for 20 years before joining 60
Minutes as the only female correspondent and its co-editor. She
is also co-editor of CBS 48 Hours Investigates. She
is a former moderator of Face the Nation, and in 1999 published
a book titled, Reporting Live.
Stahl described 60 Minutes as almost the only show
out there that is still presenting hard-nosed journalism that we all
She joked that she is often told she looks younger because the
guys I work with are so old. Mike Wallace, for instance, is approaching
87. And then theres Andy (Rooney) who is the same
by Don Ward
Stahl (right) chats with
Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson
during social time prior to the luncheon.
She said the 60 Minutes newsroom is a regular
office above a BMW dealership, but Rooney refuses to work there. His
office is across the street in another building.
She said each reporter does different types of stories, which provides
variety for viewers. 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt calls
it a repertoire company, with all of us playing different parts
in a play.
Stahl told personal stories to illustrate how TV images overwhelmingly
outweigh the words reporters are saying. Ive learned over
the years how powerful this visual language is in determining peoples
impressions of the news.
Perhaps her central message was her concern over the numerous sources
of news and information that people receive today, many of them lacking
credibility or in some cases truth. We have to find some way to
unify us again, so we hear all sides of a story. She jokingly
suggested a mandatory evening news program that everyone would have
to watch to get the true news of the day.
Stahl said she would not be able to attend the Kentucky Derby but she
was presented with a colorful jockey silks bearing the name CBS
by Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton. Mayor Abramson presented
her with a Louisville Slugger baseball bat with her name inscribed on
The Kickoff Luncheon is the second-oldest continually held event on
the festival schedule, along with the Derby Ball. The Pegasus Parade,
set for Thursday, May 5, was the first event in 1956.
Festival officials recounted the history of the nearly two-week long
event, saying it began in 1956 with a budget of only $640 for a Pegasus
Parade. Todays budget tops $5.5 million, made possible by dozens
of corporate contributions.
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