“If you don’t see it, it didn’t happen,” was the message that Nicole Young, senior producer of the CBS Evening News and producer of 60 Minutes, delivered to a packed but silent room in Frey Hall on Tuesday night at Stony Brook University. “If it needs to be seen, it needs to be seen.”
This was after she had shown a video of a 60 Minutes segment she helped produce on the Syrian gas attack titled “A Crime Against Humanity.” The video featured Syrian citizens, including children, dead or dying due to the sarin gas the government released to weaken the rebels. Sarin is an odorless, colorless gas that paralyzes the respiratory system en route to a painful death.
About 13.5 million people watched that segment of 60 Minutes according to Young, a good number for the program.
Young talked about her experiences in the Jordan-Syria border among other topics during a “My Life As” event for Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.
The nine-time Emmy Award winner spent about three weeks in Jordan on the borders of Syria putting the story together. “We had to prep everything,” Young said. “We had to pre-interview characters, get all the b-roll that would help put the story together. We had to do a walkthrough. That way, when Scott [Pelley] gets on the ground, it’s liquid. The second Scott lands, he knows what he needs to do.”
In addition to all the work required to produce the story, Young had legitimate safety concerns while covering it. “Once the sun goes down, we shouldn’t be out in the open with cameras,” she said. “We had to make sure we had enough time to shoot everything and get out of there. My decisions affect the safety of my team.”
During a Q&A, a student asked Young how she restricted her emotions when she visited a place like Syria and saw all those atrocities. “The story wasn’t about me,” Young responded. “I can’t take a side. Sometimes, it’s hard, but you have to tell the story and let your audience decide.”