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Hewitt, Don


HEWITT, DON (1922– ), U.S. journalist. Born in New York City, Hewitt attended New York University for a year and left to pursue a career in journalism. His first job was as a copy boy at The New York Herald Tribune. From 1943 to 1945, he was a war correspondent for Stars and Stripes in both the European and Pacific theaters. After the war, he worked as an editor for the Associated Press in its Memphis bureau and in 1948 he began his long-time association with the Columbia Broadcasting System. From 1948 to 1962 he produced and directed Douglas Edwards with the News and the first year, 1963–64, of the trend-setting cbs Evening News with Walter Cronkite. These two programs had a major influence on the general development of television news programming, and Hewitt played a pivotal role in framing politics for a growing audience. He directed and produced the first televised presidential debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, in 1959, and was responsible for cbs's coverage of the national political conventions between 1948 and 1980. Among his most influential contributions was the appropriation of the lower half of the television screen for printed information and news. He created a more informed generation of "news anchors" (a term he coined) through his use of cue cards and multiple framing angles. It was this redefinition of the role of the news anchor that opened up the field for Hewitt's major contribution. In 1968 Hewitt created the first television newsmagazine, 60 Minutes, and it proved to be one of the most important programs CBS ever produced, both journalistically and financially. The profits for the network from 60 Minutes were significantly in excess of a billion dollars. On the show, different anchors concentrated on a separate story, providing in-depth coverage of different topics. Unlike the nightly news, 60 Minutes had the time to provide history and editorial commentary and could systematically investigate social and political issues in a way that had only been done before in print. The mixture of upto-date reporting and extensive investigation gave 60 Minutes an aura of knowledge and respectability previously unseen on television. For many years, the program either led the ratings or finished in the top-10 most-watched shows. Hewitt earned countless honors and awards, including membership in the Television Hall of Fame. He continued to produce 60 Minutes well into his eighties but left in 2004.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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