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Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 5:36pm.
It can't have happened. Not 32 days after we lost Walter Cronkite. That's only about 2.5 million seconds. Or more appropriately, 2.5 million ticks of the stopwatch that has symbolized the longest running primetime show in television history for more than four decades. But it happened. Just more than a month after Uncle Walter died, we lost Don Hewitt Wednesday.
Many of you may not know who Hewitt was, but you certainly know his greatest achievement. Hewitt was the mind that created 60 Minutes, the CBS news magazine show that created the term news magazine show. The news magazine show that is still the gold standard for the genre; a gold standard no other show has or likely ever will reach.
60 Minutes may have been Hewitt's greatest contribution to the news world, but it was hardly his only one. He was the executive producer when CBS started the first 30-minute network evening newscast anchored by Cronkite. He was put in charge of the first televised presidential debate in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, which helped establish the power of the visual media. Radio listeners largely thought Nixon won the debate. But folks watching on TV thought the young, attractive Kennedy soundly beat the sweaty, grim-looking Nixon. Hewitt said as soon as he saw Nixon's bad make-up job on camera he knew there might be a problem for the sitting Vice President.
Like Cronkite's passing, Hewitt's death takes with it another significant piece of of our industry. He changed the way news was done by adding time and depth to stories. 60 Minutes has taken news coverage to different levels, giving viewers a level of insight they might not otherwise see. Some thought he was crazy when he suggested the idea for such a show. Find me a reporter in the last 40 years who wouldn't love 10 minutes for a good story. I guess Hewitt got the last laugh on that one.
In an age where news budgets and staffs are shrinking and the ethical lines blur more than ever, the news business has lost another of its guardians, who understood what it was all about and did usually it the right way. More than that, Hewitt made it seem so easy. "60 Minutes," he said, "is about four words every child in the world knows: Tell me a story." Oh, the stories he helped tell.
By: Kevin Wuzzardo