Don Hewitt

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Don Hewitt
Hewitt in 1987
Donald Shepherd Hewitt

(1922-12-14)December 14, 1922
DiedAugust 19, 2009(2009-08-19) (aged 86)
Alma materNew York University (withdrew for military service)
OccupationTelevision producer
Years active1942–2009
EmployerCBS News (1948–2009)
Known forCreator of 60 Minutes
Spouse(s)Mary Weaver (1945–1963; divorced; 2 children)
Frankie Teague Childers (1963–1974; divorced; 2 children)
Marilyn Berger (1979–2009; his death)
AwardsEdward R. Murrow Award, Emmy, Peabody Award, Producers Guild of America Award, Television Hall of Fame

Donald Shepard Hewitt[1] (December 14, 1922 – August 19, 2009) was an American television news producer and executive, best known for creating the CBS television news magazine 60 Minutes in 1968, which at the time of his death was the longest-running prime-time broadcast on American television.[2] Under Hewitt's leadership, 60 Minutes was the only news program ever rated as the nation's top-ranked television program, an achievement it accomplished five times.[3] Hewitt produced the first televised presidential debate in 1960.[4]

Early life[edit]

Hewitt was born in New York City, New York, the son of Frieda (née Pike) and Ely S. Hewitt (changed from Hurwitz or Horowitz).[5] His father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and his mother's family was of German Jewish descent.[1][5] 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, New York.

College and early career[edit]

Hewitt attended New York University and started his journalism career in 1942 as head copyboy for the New York Herald Tribune.[1] He joined the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1943 and served as a journalist for Stars and Stripes in London.[6] Hewitt later returned to sea as an ensign in the Naval Reserve.[7] 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.[1][8]

Back in New York City, Hewitt started working at the E.W. Scripps Company-owned photo agency ACME Newspictures, which was later merged into co-owned news service United Press[9][10]

Career at CBS News[edit]

Hewitt soon received a lucrative offer at the CBS television network, which was seeking someone who had "picture experience" to help with production of television broadcast.[8] He began working at its news division, CBS News, in 1948 and was 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 which started in 1951; 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."[3] 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.[3] He directed the televised production of the first 1960 U.S. presidential candidate debate between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice-president Richard M. Nixon on September 26, 1960, at the CBS studios in Chicago. It was the first presidential-candidate debate 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.[11]

External videos
video icon "Life and Career of Don Hewitt", April 5, 1994, C-SPAN

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.[3]

Hewitt was a primary figure in the televising of a 1996 60 Minutes documentary on the tobacco-industry scandal involving the tobacco company Brown & Williamson, in which the program eventually reported the allegations of whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand. Initially wary of a lawsuit, Hewitt sided with CBS News management and killed the Wigand story by censoring the interview.[12] After blowback, a more complete presentation of the story was allowed to air, but the handling of the issue remained "a dark, sorry period in the otherwise virtuous life of '60 Minutes.'"[13] The overall scandal was the inspiration for the 1999 film The Insider.[14] 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,[3] 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."[3] 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.[1]

In January 2010, 60 Minutes dedicated an entire show to the story and memory of Don Hewitt.[15]

In 2018, an internal CBS investigation found that in the 1990s Hewitt had been accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a former CBS employee over a period of years. CBS determined that the employee's allegations were credible and by 2018 had paid her over $5 million in settlements in exchange for her silence.[16]

Personal life and death[edit]

Hewitt was married three times:

  • Mary Weaver with whom he had two sons: Jeffrey and Steven.[17]
  • 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";[18] and he adopted her daughter Jilian Childers from a previous marriage.[17]
  • Marilyn Berger - American broadcast and newspaper journalist.[17] Through Berger, Hewitt is the great-uncle of Rob Fishman.

In March 2009, Hewitt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer from which he died on August 19, 2009, at his home in Bridgehampton, New York.[2][19]



External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Hewitt on Tell Me a Story, April 1, 2001, C-SPAN

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.


  1. ^ a b c d e Harris, Kathryn (August 19, 2009). "Don Hewitt, Creator, First Producer of '60 Minutes,' Dies at 86". Bloomberg. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Staff writer (August 19, 2009). "TV News Giant Don Hewitt Dies At 86". CBS News. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Rutenberg, Jim (November 25, 2002). "CBS Wants '60 Minutes' Chief To Hand Over the Stopwatch". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2009.
  4. ^ Steinberg, Jacques (August 20, 2009). "Don Hewitt, Creator of '60 Minutes,' Dies at 86". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b 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
  6. ^ The Don Hewitt Saga. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  7. ^ Don Hewitt dies at 86; creator of '60 Minutes'. Los Angeles Times. Published August 20, 2009. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  8. ^ a b 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.)
  9. ^ Photograph Identification Guide from the website of art historian David Rudd Cycleback
  10. ^ "IMeet Central - Organize, Share, Collaborate".
  11. ^ Sixty Minutes, rebroadcast of Memorial to Don Hewitt, 24 January 2010.
  12. ^ Brenner, Marie. "Jeffrey Wigand: The Man Who Knew Too Much". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  13. ^ Shales, Tom (October 15, 1999). "The Explosive Film That Ticked Off '60 Minutes'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2000-08-16. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  14. ^ The Insider (Motion picture). Touchstone Pictures. 1999. Event occurs at 2:33:32. Although based on a true story, certain elements in this motion picture have been fictionalized for dramatic effect.
  15. ^ "Don Hewitt » morley safer, mike wallace, don hewitt biography, ed bradley, don hewitt memorial | Watch TV Show Online". Archived from the original on 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  16. ^ Abrams, Rachel; Koblin, John (December 6, 2018). "At '60 Minutes,' Independence Led to Trouble, Investigators Say". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c New York Times: "Don Hewitt, Creator of '60 Minutes,' Dies at 86" By JACQUES STEINBERG August 19, 2009
  18. ^ New York Times: "WEDDINGS; Lisa G. Hewitt, William Cassara" April 18, 1993
  19. ^ Bauder, David (August 19, 2009). "CBS News pioneer Don Hewitt, who invented '60s Minutes' dies at 86". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 22, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  20. ^ "Paul White Award". Radio Television Digital News Association. Archived from the original on 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  21. ^ Don Hewitt Personal Award Archived June 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine from the Peabody Award website
  22. ^ Arizona State University. "Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication". Retrieved November 23, 2016.

External links[edit]