Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Late Great Don Hewitt

Don Hewitt, the veteran news producer and executive, passed today at the age of 86. He directed the legendary show See It Now, featuring Edward R. Murrow, and created the show 60 Minutes. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

Don Hewitt was born on December 14, 1922 in New York City. He grew up in nearby New Rochelle, New York. He attended New York University for one year before dropping out. He then took a job as a copyboy at The New York Herald Tribune. In 1943, during World War II, he enrolled in he Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. Eventually he would cover the Merchant Marines for Stars and Stripes.

Following the war, Hewitt took another job at The New York Herald Tribune. It was not long afterwards that he was hired as a night editor for the Associated Press in Memphis. Although his wife was a native of Tennessee, she found herself missing New York City. He then took a job as a night editor wit the photo agency Acme Telepictures. It was while Don Hewitt was at Acme Telepictures that a friend told him of an opening at CBS for someone to produce television programming.

Hewitt began his career in 1948 as the producer/director of CBS Television News, with anchorman Douglas Edwards. Starting in 1951 he was a director on the legendary documentary news programme See It Now. The series was hosted by newsman Edward R. Murrow and ran for seen years. It was in 1960 that Don Hewitt directed the famous 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

In 1962 he became the producer of The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. While the late Walter Cronkite reported such huge events as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Apollo 11 moon landing, Don Hewitt produced the televised reports. In 1960 he created 60 Minutes, currently the longest running programme on American prime time television. 60 Minutes would inspire other, similar news magazines, including 20/20 on ABC and Dateline on NBC. Hewitt remained with 60 Minutes until 2004.

Don Hewitt was very much a legend in network news. As either director, producer, or both, he worked with such newsmen as Douglas Edwards, Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite. And while Edwards, Murrow, and Cronkite were great journalists in and of themselves, there can be no doubt that Hewitt's talent as a producer and director helped them greatly. Beyond being a talented producer and director, Hewitt also created 60 Minutes, a groundbreaking show that changed television forever. Perhaps no other producer or director of broadcast network news has had as much impact as Don Hewitt.


Holte Ender said...

As a big fan of 60 Minutes and of the life and career of Ed Murrow, I really appreciate what Don Hewitt did for TV news. Wish we had a younger version of him at CBS right now.

Terence Towles Canote said...

I have to agree. CBS in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies was at the top of its game. It reported the news fairly and without bias. This was largely due to men such as Ed Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and, as producer and director, Don Hewitt. Looking at the sad state of network news these days, we really need men like that again!