Last night on “60 Minutes,” Lesley Stahl did a two-segment piece on Saudi Arabia’s oil. It wasn’t bad, but it was too long.
Stahl loves numbers. Here’s how much steel they’re using to build this facility, here’s how many miles they have to pump sea water from the ocean, here’s how many barrels of oil they can produce per day, and on and on. She’s particularly impressed by scale — this is a huge room, that tank is the size of a football field, how much did this facility cost, how long is this pipeline, etc.
The problem is that much of this is useless information, included solely to bloat the piece into two segments. Any good editor would have cut out scenes like Stahl getting off a plane wearing an abaya, or going up a long staircase.
I’m not kidding. At one point, she visited the Khurais oil field, where Stahl spoke to Khalid Abdulqader, the project manager. He showed her around the facility, including a climb up the steps of a seven-story-high oil tank, where Stahl was heard saying, “This is a lot of walking.”
Once at the top, he showed her the vast expanse of the tank, and she asked if they could climb down the steps on the inside. He said yes and led the way. Stahl followed, warning him to “be careful, be very careful” as if she were his mother.
At the bottom, Abdulqader explained, “This is a floating roof. So, when oil comes in, the whole roof will go up.” Here’s the next thing out of Stahl’s mouth: “So, in other words, we’re standing on the roof of the tank, and the oil will push it up.”
No, Lesley, not in other words. Those were his exact words you were repeating for no reason.
She does this often. Someone says something in plain, non-technical speak that we can all understand, but Stahl feels the need to repeat and explain it (“This is an apple, it grew on a tree.” “In other words, this fruit was once on the branch of a tree until someone picked it?” “Yes.”)
Stahl scored some points with tough questions of the Saudi oil minister, but in the end she concluded that, despite leaders in the US and elsewhere pushing for alternatives, Saudi Arabia is bullish on oil’s future.
What a shock. That’s like Paris Hilton being bullish on paparazzi, or Lesley Stahl being bullish on redundancy. In other words, one doesn’t exist without the other.
Bonus: Here’s a rant I did on the air a year ago about Stahl’s visit to a Subway restaurant.