A Two-way Threat  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   December 1999

A Two-way Threat   

Not only has Lowell Bergman gained the honor of having Al Pacino portray him in film, but the former “60 Minutes” staff producer’s byline has been popping up in the New York Times as well.

By Danielle Christophe
Danielle Christophe is a former AJR editorial assistant and production assistant.     


Not only has Lowell Bergman gained the honor of having Al Pacino portray him in film, but the former "60 Minutes" staff producer's byline has been popping up in the New York Times as well.

Bergman, 54, began working with the paper in May 1998 while serving as a producer for the " CBS Evening News." The project involved a joint investigation by CBS and the Times into allegations of smuggling of U.S. jets to Iran. "The plan was to continue that relationship," says Bergman, but it "was clear by September '98 I wasn't going to be at CBS."

Bergman, a 14-year veteran of "60 Minutes" who worked on the "Evening News" for two years, says once his contract was up in '98 with the television network he began looking for an outlet to do investigative stories. Luckily, the Times was considering television ventures, and Managing Editor Bill Keller asked Bergman to come on as a consultant, according to Investigations Editor Stephen Engelberg.

As a consultant and contract reporter for the Times, Bergman says he hasn't found the transition from television to print too difficult. It's like "learning the ropes at any institution," he says, adding that he has had some difficulty writing longer pieces because television reporting is usually very succinct. In TV, Bergman says, it's "almost, well, more important to get the correspondent in the story than the story" itself.

Times business and investigative reporter Timothy O'Brien, with whom Bergman has written two articles including an October piece on Russian money laundering, hasn't noticed the writing problem, though. "He's very adept in both," O'Brien says.

Bergman may be best known for his involvement in the 1995 controversy at "60 Minutes," when CBS management decided not to air an interview of tobacco industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand because of possible legal repercussions (see "Fighting Back," January/February 1996). Bergman, the story's producer, was incensed. The movie version of the flap, "The Insider," for which Bergman was a consultant, debuted in November, featuring Pacino as a big-screen Bergman.

In the midst of attending bicoastal premieres, Bergman is also producing a four-hour piece on international drug wars for PBS' investigative news program, "Frontline." Bergman's wife, Sharon Tiller, is also a producer for "Frontline."

As for his print gig, Bergman most enjoys being able to do the in-depth work.

"Lowell is the real thing," says O'Brien. "When it comes to investigative journalism, he's a total pro."

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