|Born||Donald Shepard Hewitt
December 14, 1922
New York City, New York, United States
|Died||August 19, 2009
Bridgehampton, New York, United States
|Cause of death||Pancreatic cancer|
|Residence||Bridgehampton, New York|
|Education||New Rochelle High School|
|Alma mater||New York University (withdrew for military service)|
|Employer||CBS News (1948–2009)|
|Known for||Creator of 60 Minutes|
|Home town||New York City|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Weaver (1945–1963; divorced; 2 children)
Frankie Teague Childers (1963–1974; divorced; 2 children)
Marilyn Berger (1979–2009; his death)
|Children||Jeffrey Hewitt, Steven Hewitt, Jilian Hewitt (adopted), Lisa Hewitt-Cassara|
|Parents||Frieda (née Pike) Hewitt, Ely S. Hewitt|
|Awards||Edward R. Murrow Award, Emmy, Peabody Award, Producers Guild of America Award, Television Hall of Fame|
Donald Shepard "Don" Hewitt (December 14, 1922 – August 19, 2009) 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. Under Hewitt's leadership, 60 Minutes was the only news program ever rated the nation's top-ranked television program, an achievement it accomplished five times. Hewitt produced the first televised presidential debate in 1960.
Hewitt was born in New York City, New York, 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. His family later lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from New Rochelle High School, in New Rochelle, NY.
College and early career
Hewitt attended New York University and started his journalism career in 1942 as head copyboy for the New York Herald Tribune. 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.
Career at CBS News
|This section requires expansion with: more details about Hewitt's contributions to 60 Minutes. (August 2009)|
Soon he received a lucrative offer at the CBS television network, which was seeking someone who had "picture experience" to help with production of television broadcast. 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 directed the televised production of the 1960 U.S. Presidential candidate debates between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy; they were the first presidential-candidate debates ever televised. He later became executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, helming the famous broadcast of John F. Kennedy's assassination as the story developed.
He then launched the eight-time Emmy Award-winning show 60 Minutes. Within ten years, the show reached the top 10 in viewership, a position it maintained for 21 of the following 22 seasons, until the 1999–2000 season.
Hewitt was a primary figure in the 1996 tobacco-industry scandal involving tobacco company Brown & Williamson and 60 Minutes. The scandal was the inspiration for the 1999 film The Insider. Hewitt was portrayed in the film by Philip Baker Hall.
Declining ratings at 60 Minutes—after decades of being in the top 10 the show had dropped in rankings to number 20—contributed to what became a public debate in 2002 about whether it was time for CBS to replace Hewitt at 60 Minutes. According to The New York Times, Jeff Fager, producer of 60 Minutes II, was being floated as a possible replacement, speculation that proved to be accurate. The show was still generating an estimated profit of more than $20 million a year, but the decline in viewership and profit meant the show could no longer "operate as an island unto itself, often thumbing its nose at management while demanding huge salaries and perquisites." Within a couple of years, Hewitt stepped aside as executive producer at the age of 81, signing a ten-year contract with CBS to be an executive producer-at-large for CBS News.
In January 2010, 60 Minutes dedicated an entire show to the story and memory of Don Hewitt.
In addition to several Peabody Awards given to 60 Minutes, Hewitt was given a personal Peabody Award in 1988, for his accomplishments that have "touch[ed] the lives of just about every American." In 1993, he and 60 Minutes were elected to the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
On April 3, 2008, Hewitt was honored with Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Broadcast Journalism.
In 1985, Random House published Minute by Minute (ISBN 0394546415), a look at the history of 60 Minutes. In 2001, PublicAffairs published Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television (ISBN 1586480170), in which Hewitt chronicles his life as a newsman.
Personal life and death
Hewitt was married three times:
- Mary Weaver with whom he had two sons: Jeffrey and Steven.
- Frankie Teague Hewitt - American theater producer and founder of the Ford's Theatre Society who was responsible for restoring and reopening the historic site as a working theater. They had a daughter: Lisa Gabrielle Hewitt Cassara, former coordinating producer of the syndicated television show "A Current Affair"; and he adopted her daughter Jilian Childers from a previous marriage.
- Marilyn Berger - American broadcast and newspaper journalist.
- Harris, Kathryn (August 19, 2009). "Don Hewitt, Creator, First Producer of '60 Minutes,' Dies at 86". Bloomberg. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Staff writer (August 19, 2009). "TV News Giant Don Hewitt Dies At 86.". CBS News. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Rutenberg, Jim (November 25, 2002). "CBS Wants '60 Minutes' Chief To Hand Over the Stopwatch". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2009.
- Steinberg, Jacques (August 20, 2009). "Don Hewitt, Creator of ‘60 Minutes,' Dies at 86". The New York Times.
- The Tablet Magazine: "Don Hewitt on His Judaism - The ‘60 Minutes’ creator died today at 86. For the book ‘Stars of David,’ he talked about his religion." By Abigail Pogrebin August 19, 2009
- Steinberg, Jacques (August 19, 2009). "Don Hewitt, Creator of 60 Minutes,' Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2009. (Website registration required.)
- Photograph Identification Guide from the website of art historian David Rudd Cycleback
- Sixty Minutes, rebroadcast of Memorial to Don Hewitt, 24 January 2010.
- Don Hewitt Personal Award from the Peabody Award website
- New York Times: "Don Hewitt, Creator of ‘60 Minutes,’ Dies at 86" By JACQUES STEINBERG August 19, 2009
- New York Times: "WEDDINGS; Lisa G. Hewitt, William Cassara" April 18, 1993
- Bauder, David (August 19, 2009). "CBS News pioneer Don Hewitt, who invented '60s Minutes' dies at 86.". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Don Hewitt at the Internet Movie Database
- Booknotes interview with Hewitt on Tell Me A Story: 50 Years and 60 Minutes in Television, April 1, 2001.
- Don Hewitt - Daily Telegraph obituary
- A film clip "The Open Mind - Tell Me A Story . . . In 60 Minutes, Part I (2001)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- A film clip "The Open Mind - Tell Me A Story . . . In 60 Minutes, Part II (2001)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]