The Secret Of Don Hewitt's Success

Steve Kroft Explains The "Simple" Secret Behind Don Hewitt's Success

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Don Hewitt was a television impresario who changed the way viewers saw the news. But viewers rarely saw Don, until he pulled back the curtain at 60 Minutes a decade ago and allowed the public television series "American Masters" to come in for a behind the scenes look.

As correspondent Steve Kroft reports, what their cameras captured was the Don Hewitt his staff knew - a volcano of ideas and frenetic energy, who at age 75 was still a master at the height of his powers.

When you saw him in the hallways, or in the edit rooms or offices, you knew immediately that Don Hewitt was the real star of 60 Minutes. It was his baby, his creation and he ran it to his own specifications.

His vision resulted in one of the most successful shows in television history, on the air longer than Gunsmoke or Lucy or Roseanne or Seinfeld.

In the cutthroat world of network television, of programming, ratings and focus groups, 60 Minutes ran on the gut instincts of Don Hewitt.

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Don and the broadcast were one. It was the culmination of his life's work. The broadcast's shape, its vocabulary, its syntax and its flair were all Don's.

He managed to turn news into primetime entertainment, with a collection of distinct voices and a range of stories every Sunday night - a three-course meal with something for everyone.

"I have all these stories and each week or month I will decide which three or four I'll put in the magazine. I said that's a pretty good way to run this," Hewitt explained.

"The people who watched football and the people who were at home and having Sunday dinner with their families was the ideal audience for a news show," said Sir Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO of the Sony Corporation.

Stringer spent some 30 years at CBS News, some of them as president of the news division and Don Hewitt's corporate boss.

"He brilliantly designed that show to give something for every member of that family," Stringer said. "He could tease them and amuse them occasionally, but he'd bring them back to a story that mattered and counted and made them feel interested and interesting at the same time."