Former CBS News Exec Robert Chandler Dies

Robert Chandler is shown in this file photo at CBS TV's studio 41. Chandler, a former CBS News executive who helped launch "60 Minutes" and supervised the TV newsmagazine in its early years, died Thursday Dec. 11, 2008, according to the network and his family. He was 80.
AP Photo
Robert Chandler, a former CBS News executive who helped launch 60 Minutes and supervised the TV newsmagazine in its early years, died Thursday, according to the network and his family. He was 80.

Chandler died of heart failure at his home in Pittsfield, said his son, Doug.

Chandler joined CBS News in 1963 as director of information services and later served as vice president in charge of public affairs broadcasts. He was an early proponent of the 60 Minutes format, helping put Don Hewitt's concept for the pioneering program on the air.

"In my more than half a century at CBS News, I don't recall anyone having a better fix on what 60 Minutes should be than Bob Chandler," Hewitt said in a statement.

In the late 1970s, as the program emerged as one of television's highest-rated programs, Chandler was responsible for approving Hewitt's stories and budgets. He also played a role in adding Andy Rooney to the broadcast.

"He was a good guy and a good executive. And that is hard," Rooney said.

Chandler's widow, Eleanor, told The Associated Press that her husband was never surprised by the enduring success of 60 Minutes.

"I think he always thought (the program) would be a big success and I think it had to do with the composition of reporters and Don Hewitt," she said.

Chandler also served as director of operations for the CBS News Election Unit, where he helped create the CBS News Poll, which in 1976 partnered with The New York Times to form the New York Times-CBS News Poll.

His involvement with the Election Unit gave him an integral role in covering elections and conventions from 1968-'74. He served as the CBS News member of the Board of Managers of the News Election Service (NES), the network and wire service organization responsible for counting votes on national elections in 1968. He supervised CBS News Campaign '74 election night coverage and was the co-executive producer of CBS election night coverage in 1970 and 1972.

Chandler was also a producer and co-producer of several documentaries, among them: "CBS Reports: Under Surveillance," (Dec. 1971) an Emmy-nominated report on the government's surveillance of dissenters that he produced; he wrote and produced "The People of South Vietnam: How They Feel About the War" (March 1967); and was the executive producer of the "1966 National Driver's Test" (May 1966).

Over a 22-year tenure at CBS, Chandler had a hand in just about every aspect of the news division's affairs and in 1975, was appointed vice president administration and assistant to the president of CBS News. In addition to supervising the campaign and election coverage, he oversaw the news division's Archives, Business Affairs, Information Services, and Production departments.

He joined CBS News in 1963 as director of Information Services, the top public relations job at the News Division, and two years later became manager of program administration. He continued gaining new titles and responsibilities, culminating with his elevation to senior vice president, administration, in 1984.

Chandler retired from CBS in 1985, but later worked briefly at NBC News and served as executive producer of a PBS documentary, "Learning in America: Schools That Work," which premiered in 1990.