Don Hewitt, the creator and longtime executive producer of 60 Minutes, died today of pancreatic cancer. He was 86.
We often hear about how a certain individual or program changed the face of television yet it is seldom true. However, such a claim is justified when it comes to Don Hewitt and 60 Minutes. Hewitt once described the show as "Life Magazine on the air." Hewitt created an ornament to both television and to journalism. Whether the subject was the Ayatollah Khomenei, Lena Horne or some con artist the program had your undivided attention. I have watched 60 Minutes for as long as I can remember and cannot conceive of a Sunday evening without it (except for Super Bowl Sunday, of course.)
Hewitt retired as executive producer of 60 Minutes in June 2004 ending a 36-year association with the program. Towards the end of his tenure the program became far more overtly left-wing (i.e. Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill.) Not that it didn't have a liberal bias but it used to be subtle. But in response to the Bush Administration, that liberal bias is now worn on its sleeve under the direction of of new executive producer Jeff Fagen and can be seen in its overt affection for President Obama.
Nevertheless, 60 Minutes place in both television and journalism is ensconced and this would not have been possible without the innovative spirit of Don Hewitt.