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08/19/2010

One year ago: Don Hewitt

August 19, 2010 |  6:00 am

Don-hewitt Don Hewitt, a broadcast news pioneer who died one year ago, introduced the world to the TV news magazine with "60 Minutes," a news show with the flexibility and diversity of a magazine, adapted to broadcast journalism.

Hewitt's "60 Minutes," the show with the iconic ticking stopwatch, offered a mix of exposes, human-interest stories and profiles -- a model Hewitt admitted he took right from Life magazine.

The genre-creating program eventually become the top-rated show on television, and with its success came a host of copycats, including ABC's "20/20" and NBC's "Dateline."

But Hewitt, who was described by colleagues as an "idea-a-minute personality," had done his share of innovation long before there was ever a "60 Minutes."

As producer of CBS' "Douglas Edwards With the News" (a forerunner of  "CBS Evening News"), he began putting the anchor's script on poster boards next to the camera, a practice that led to the modern TelePrompTer. Later, during the 1952 Republican Party convention, he came up with the idea of superimposing on screen the identities of people who appeared on camera.

He also produced and directed the first televised presidential debate, between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, in 1960.

"He was just a great, legendary editor," said Morley Safer, a longtime "60 Minutes" reporter. "And Don's hands on a story always made it leaner, tougher, more direct and more readily understandable. Which is the job of an editor, and he was absolutely superb at it."

For more on the broadcast news trailblazer, read Don Hewitt's L.A. Times obituary by Dennis McLellan and view a photo gallery of Hewitt's life.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Don Hewitt in 1976. Credit: Associated Press / CBS Photo Archive

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