Don Hewitt, creator of "60 Minutes," dead at 86

Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:35pm EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Don Hewitt, creator of CBS News' groundbreaking "60 Minutes" program and one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in U.S. television journalism, died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday, CBS News said.

He was 86.

Hewitt worked as producer or director for CBS legends Edward R. Murrow, Douglas Edwards and Walter Cronkite, but his greatest legacy was the television news magazine format on "60 Minutes" starting in 1968.

He died about a month after Cronkite, the towering news anchor who was known as the "most trusted man in America" in opinion polls. Cronkite was 92.

"60 Minutes" featured mini-documentary segments based on investigative reporting by seasoned journalists like Mike Wallace, Dan Rather, Morley Safer and Harry Reasoner. "60 Minutes" proved to be a profitable and steady ratings winner for CBS and the magazine format was widely copied by other networks.

The show developed a reputation for exposes, aggressive reporting and use of hidden cameras, but Hewitt said the philosophy behind the show was simple.

"It's four words every child knows -- tell me a story," he said.

Hewitt's career spanned 60 years, most of them at CBS. He reluctantly stepped down as executive producer of "60 Minutes" in 2003 after having repeatedly said he would have preferred to have died at his desk.

Television news was in its infancy when Hewitt started at CBS in 1948. Besides working as producer and director of the network's evening news broadcast during the tenures of Edwards and Cronkite, he contributed to the coverage of the first televised political conventions in Philadelphia in 1948 and Chicago in 1952.   Continued...

 
<p>Don Hewitt in a 2003 photo courtesy of CBS. Hewitt, the creator of CBS News' ground-breaking "60 Minutes" program and one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in U.S. television journalism, died on Wednesday at the age of 86, CBS News said. REUTERS/John Filo/CBS/Handout</p>