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The Public Eye Chat With … Max McClellan

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for the Public Eye Chat. This week's subject is CBS News producer Max McClellan. Oops. Make that Emmy-Winning producer Max McClellan.

Matthew Felling: You won your first Emmy. I feel like I should ask you if you're going to Disney World. How's it feel?

Max McClellan: It's feels terrific - and lucky. In my case, I was lucky to be working with Lara Logan and Jeff Newton, who shot some extraordinary material in Ramadi and then let me join them to help put it together.

Matthew Felling: As a producer for Lara Logan, what does your job entail?

Max McClellan: I work with Lara to develop stories around the world for the CBS Evening News. She spends a lot of her time in Baghdad, of course, but when she's not there, she still keeps extremely busy. Aside from Iraq, we've done stories in India, Darfur, South Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Syria in the last year. People often ask me if she's indefatigable. Yep.

Matthew Felling: Tell me about the story that won the award.

Max McClellan: This was a two-part series that aired on the Evening News in May 2006. Lara and her Associate Producer from 60 Minutes, Jeff Newton, spent several weeks living and working alongside US Marines in Ramadi, Iraq. At the time, Ramadi was the operational center of Al Qaeda in Iraq and one of the bloodiest frontlines in the war on terror. These Marines were involved in heavy, daily, street by street battles with the insurgents. Lara and Jeff were with them every step of the way and captured an up-close view of the war that had rarely been seen. For me, the material they shot and the interviews they did were extraordinary, not only because it gave our audience a glimpse of the intense fighting going on, but also because it showed the bravery and humanity with which these soldiers conducted themselves every day.

Matthew Felling: What role did you play in it?

Max McClellan: Lara came out of Ramadi and immediately started to feed the material via satellite back to Washington, DC, where I work. It was about 18-20 hours of material. Then, she jumped on a plane. So, as she was flying back to the States where she would write her stories, I was making notes on what she had done. Once in NY, we worked on scripts and then pulled out our secret weapon: Editor Tom McEneny. He is one of the very best in the business. He played a pivotal role in figuring out how to knit together all the material in the most compelling way. The two stories wouldn't have come together as powerfully as they did without him.

Matthew Felling: How long have you been producing Lara Logan's work?

Max McClellan: I've been working with Lara since March 2006. So, about a year and a half. In fact, she works with many producers, particularly when she's in Iraq for long stretches, but my current assignment is to work exclusively with her.

Matthew Felling: Could you tell when you were working this story that there was something special about it?

Max McClellan: Yes, I really think so. I couldn't have told you that the series was destined to win an Emmy and other awards this year, but it was definitely standout material. Lara and Jeff went where few other TV journalists had gone up to that point and, as a result, they brought back really unique stuff.

Matthew Felling: So you're an award-winning producer. Has anything changed around the office?

Max McClellan: Absolutely. Instead of never being taken seriously, I think it's fair to say I'm now rarely taken seriously.

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