Cover Stories: Big And Small

CBS News Sunday Morning decided to give the Cover Story its name because it didn't know what else to call it. Richard Threlkeld, a veteran of one the earliest covers, says it ought to come first in the show -- right after the headlines. And, it had to be good.

For the very first cover story, CBS News Sunday Morning was in Mexico, where a young, dynamic new Pope was on the road.

"One man looked at him and said, 'But the Pope is so young,' reported Threlkeld in 1979.

One of the things you notice after 25 years is that everybody seems to be getting older.

Sometimes Sunday Morning went to great big stories, such as the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, and it tried to tell the stories in a little different way.

"They look like a row of bottles against the sunrise on the Susquehanna -- magic bottles that only the scientists really understand," reported Threlkeld in 1979.

Sometimes Sunday Morning went to little stories. Threlkeld went back to his old high school in the Midwest for commencement. And, it was the little stories that often tell something bigger about Americans.

"A lot has happened over the past 24 yearbooks, a couple of Kennedys, one Vietnam, a Martin Luther King, some protests, men on the moon, Richard Nixon, and an energy crisis, among other things," said Threlkeld, in 1979. "Almost a generation of yearbooks between the class of '79 and the way they are, and the class of '55 , and the way we were."

Before Sunday Morning knew it, three years of Cover Stories had gone by.

After Threlkeld reported on his last Cover Story for Sunday Morning, it was time for replacements and contributors such as George Herman, David Culhane, David Dow, Morton Dean, Betsy Aaron, Lem Tucker, David Martin, Ed Rabel, Mark Phillips, Bob Simon, Joie Chen, Richard Roth, Bill Whitaker, Sandra Hughes, Susan Spencer, Mika Brzezinski, Jerry Bowen, Martha Teichner, Lee Cowan and many more.

For 25 years, Cover Stories have been told every week by the best and brightest story tellers -- a passing parade of familiar faces at CBS News.

Sunday Morning's camera folks, editors and producers like the Cover Stories because they had more time for more pictures. And the correspondents like the Cover Stories because they had more time to say something.

"Stories are not just about newsmakers and news events, but about the way we live, work and get along with each other," says Threlkeld. "It's an American tapestry, painted with colors from an American pallet."

Threlkeld says one other nice thing about the Cover Story - similar to Sunday Morning -- is there's more to come.

Originally aired Jan. 25, 2004