More than 50 years after joining CBS News, Don Hewitt continues to influence television journalism, much as he did when he helped invent many of its methods for reporting news, beginning in 1948. His pioneering work in producing and directing many of the broadcasts of the world's major news events during television's infancy provided a blueprint news producers still rely on today. But Hewitt is best known and most respected for another innovation, 60 Minutes, the groundbreaking news broadcast he created in 1968.
In his new book, "Tell Me a Story, Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television" (PublicAffairs, April '01), Hewitt chronicles his life as a newsman, from World War II to the beginning of television to the triumphs and controversies of 60 Minutes - the most watched news broadcast in the history of television.
60 Minutes enters its 34th season in the fall and finished the 2000-01 season as the number-one news magazine. Hewitt is credited with inventing the newsmagazine format, a successful and much-copied style of news broadcast for which 60 Minutes was the prototype. For this innovation and his years of leadership on 60 Minutes, he was awarded the Founders Emmy by the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts & 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, the most recent of which was the 2001Carr 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 prizes include eight Emmy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awars 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 two awards: 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 and 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, he 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.
Hewitt's 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. It was the first time that a television news broadcast received the 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, Hewitt was honored by Brandeis University with an honorary doctorate in humane letters. 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 was also honored by the American Film Institute with an honorary doctorate in fine arts and, in 1998, the Banf Television Festival gave him its highest honor, the Astral Award for Excellence in broadcasting.
In 1998, Hewitt accepted the President's Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Overseas Press Club for 60 Minutes' regular inclusion of foreign reports n its story mix. The citation reads, "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. In April 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 as head copy boy for the New York Herald Tribune in 1942, after attending New York University for one year. During World War II, he served as a war correspondent in the European and Pacific theaters (1943-45). He later became night editor of the Associated Press' 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 is also the author of Minute by Minute (Random House, 1985).
Hewitt was born Dec. 14, 1922, in New York City. He and his wife, Marilyn Berger, a former NBC News White House correspondent and former Washington Post diplomatic correspondent, live in New York City.