Don Hewitt, News producer and executive, Died at 86

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Dead, Donald Shepard “Don” Hewitt on August 19, 2009 at the age of 86, he was an American television news producer and executive, best known for creating 60 Minutes, the CBS television news magazine, in 1968, which at the time of his death, was the longest-running prime-time broadcast on American television.

Born in New York City, New York on December 14, 1922 the son of Frieda (née Pike) and Ely S. Hewitt, his father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and his mother’s family was of German Jewish descent.

Hewitt’s family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, shortly after his birth, where his father worked as a classified advertising manager for the Boston Herald American.

He joined the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1943.

After World War II ended in 1945, Hewitt returned to his job as copyboy for the Tribune, then worked for The Associated Press at a bureau in Memphis, Tennessee.

However, his wife Mary Weaver—whom he married while working in Memphis—wanted to go to New York City, so he moved back. Hewitt started at its news division, CBS News, in 1948 and served as producer-director of the network’s evening-news broadcast with Douglas Edwards for fourteen years.

He was also the first director of See It Now, co-produced by host Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly that started in 1952; his use of “two film projectors cutting back and forth breaks up the monotony of a talking head, improves editing, and shapes future news broadcasts.”

In 1956, Hewitt was the only one to capture on film the final moments of the SS Andrea Doria as it sank and disappeared under the water.

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.”

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 honoured 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.


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