Don Hewitt. He was 86 years old.
As executive producer, CBS News, Don Hewitt brainstorms new ideas for television news and works on news specials - much as he did in television's infancy when his innovative methods for covering news provided a blueprint news producers still rely on today.
Most recently, Hewitt executive produced the first ever network television special coverage of Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show on NBC Dec. 1, 2007
Hewitt is best known for 60 Minutes, the groundbreaking news broadcast he created in 1968 and stepped down from as its executive producer in June 2004. It remains the most popular television program in history, making the top-10 list for an unprecedented 23 straight seasons - a record five of them as the number-one broadcast. It is still the number-one news program.
For these contributions to television news, Hewitt was honored with the Edward R. Murrow Award from Washington State University in 2007 and the second annual Lifetime Achievement Emmy presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in September 2003.
Hewitt is credited with creating the newsmagazine format, a successful and much-copied style of news broadcast for which 60 Minutes was the prototype. For this innovation and for his years of leadership on 60 Minutes, he was awarded the Founders Emmy by the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1995. When presenting this award to Hewitt, then-ABC News President Roone Arledge said: "His real monument is 60 Minutes. He is truly an innovator in this business. I still believe Don deserves the credit for it [the idea of the newsmagazine format]; it is an innovative format no one had done before. It's been copied all over the world, including several times by us. He's been a leader in our industry. He has inspired all sorts of people."
Hewitt has been the recipient of numerous other honors, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (AFTRA) George Heller Lifetime Achievement Award (May 2003) and the Spirit Award, a lifetime-achievement honor from the National Association of Broadcasters (April 2003). He has also received the Director's Guild Association Honor for contributions to American culture (June 2002); the 2001 Carr Van Anda Award for his contribution to journalism, bestowed by the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University; and the 2000 Fred Friendly First Amendment Award from Quinnipiac College. In 1999, he was honored with the Spirit of Liberty Award from the People for the American Way Foundation. A few weeks earlier, the Committee to Protect Journalists awarded him its 1999 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for "a lifetime of distinguished achievement in the cause of press freedom." His other honors include eight Emmy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards and the 1980 Broadcaster of the Year Award from the International Radio and Television Society. Hewitt was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1992, he won the Lowell Thomas Centennial Award, presented by Marist College, and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism, presented by the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, a prize he shared with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.
Hewitt began his career with CBS News in 1948 as an associate director of "Douglas Edwards with the News," then served as producer-director of the broadcast for 14 years. He later became executive producer of the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite."
As a producer-director of "Eyewitness to History" and other CBS News specials, Hewitt covered the travels of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. He was executive producer of the award-winning "CBS Reports: Hunger in America," produced and directed the first face-to-face television debate between presidential nominees Kennedy and Nixon during the 1960 campaign and directed two history-making three-network "Conversations with the President." He was also producer-director of the coverage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth (1953) and the installation of Pope John XXIII (1958). In addition, Hewitt had a leading role in CBS News' coverage of every Democratic and Republican
National Convention from 1948 to 1980.
His additional honors include the George Polk Memorial Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and the University of Missouri Distinguished Service Journalism Award. In 1988, Hewitt, 60 Minutes correspondent Andy Rooney and the broadcast's former correspondent Dan Rather were honored with the Gold Medal Award from the International Radio and Television Society for their work on 60 Minutes. It was the first time that a television news broadcast received this prestigious award. Hewitt was also honored by the Radio/Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) with the Paul White Award (1987) and by the National Press Foundation with the 1985 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. In May 1990, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters by Brandeis University. In January 1992, he was a guest lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In 1993, Hewitt delivered the first William S. Paley lecture at the Museum of Television & Radio. He also received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the American Film Institute, and in 1998 the Banff Television Festival gave him its highest honor, the Astral Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.
Also in 1998, Hewitt accepted the President's Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Overseas Press Club for 60 Minutes' regular inclusion of foreign reports in its story mix. The citation read: "Under Don Hewitt's leadership, 60 Minutes' coverage of vital overseas stories sets the highest standards." In addition, 60 Minutes was honored with the 1987-88 Gold Baton, the highest of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards in broadcast journalism, "for two decades of reporting that changed the nature of television news." In April of 1993 (the year it celebrated its 25th anniversary), 60 Minutes was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Hewitt began his journalism career in 1942 as head copyboy for the New York Herald Tribune after attending New York University for one year. During World War II, he served as a correspondent in the European and Pacific theaters (1943-45). He later became night editor of the Associated Press's Memphis bureau (1945-46), went on to become editor of the Pelham (N.Y.) Sun (1946-47) and was the night telephoto editor for Acme News Pictures.
Hewitt writes about his life in Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television (PublicAffairs, 2001), chronicling his life as a newsman, from World War II correspondent to the beginning of television to the triumphs and controversies of 60 Minutes. He is also the author of the book Minute by Minute (Random House, 1985).
Hewitt was born Dec. 14, 1922, in New York. He and his wife, Marilyn Berger, a former NBC News White House correspondent and former Washington Post diplomatic correspondent, live in New York.
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