The Columns

“60 Minutes” Horse Whisperer

— by on November 2nd, 2010

Viewers of the Oct. 31 edition of “60 Minutes” enjoyed the profile of Zenyatta, the unbeaten racehorse who is aiming to win her 20th and final race on Nov. 6, at the Breeder’s Cup Classic. One of the CBS staffers who created the story, as much with her equestrian skills as with her journalistic talents, is Michelle Boniface, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2009.

As a broadcast associate at “60 Minutes,” Michelle performs the usual entry-level tasks of that position. As a “60 Minutes Overtime” web story puts it, however, “Michelle suddenly found herself on her first shoot, helping veteran producers and correspondent Bob Simon understand Zenyatta, and how special a horse she really is.”

She found herself in this position because of her upbringing in Darlington, Md., on a Thoroughbred farm. Her father, Kevin Boniface, is a trainer of racehorses, and her mother, Chris, is a former jockey. “Being on a racehorse is the coolest feeling in the whole world,” said Michelle in the web piece.

For “60 Minutes,” she served as a translator between the worlds of journalism and horse racing. She also got to spend some literal face time with the famous Zenyatta. Said correspondent Simon of Boniface, “She was an enormous help.”

Michele holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communications. While she was a student at W&L, she played field hockey and club lacrosse. In 2008, she interned with CBS News in New York City, and got a thank-you from CBS reporter Daniel Sieberg for her help on a story about his trip to the Arctic. Naturally, she also worked as a producer for the Washington and Lee “Rockbridge Report.” Her profile there read, in part: “She hopes to pursue a career in news production and documentary filmmaking while still keeping horses and horse racing in her life.”

Looks like she’s finding a way to make that happen.