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UPDATED: '60 Minutes' creator Don Hewitt dies

August 19, 2009 |  9:02 am

Don Hewitt, who created CBS News' pioneering newsmagazine "60 Minutes," died of pancreatic cancer today at his home in Bridgehampton, N.Y. He was was 86.

The longtime CBS News producer worked with industry giants Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite and was a pivotal figure in the creation of the modern television newscast. He directed the first network television news program, featuring Douglas Edwards, and was the executive producer of the first half-hour network newscast, anchored by Cronkite.

Hewitt helped usher in the arrival of television as the dominant news medium in the latter half of the 20th century. An innovative producer, Hewitt came up with the idea of holding up cue cards for anchors, the advent of the modern-day teleprompter, and pioneered the way cameras were used to cover major news events. He directed the first televised presidential debate held between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

In 1968, he came up with the idea for an hourlong, three-segment documentary program. “60 Minutes” became one of the 10 most-watched television programs for nearly a quarter century. The powerhouse program is still the go-to forum for major newsmakers, dominating the imitators that followed.

Hewitt's death comes a month after the passing of Cronkite, another CBS News legend.

This morning, top CBS executives offered their remembrances of Hewitt:

“In the history of journalism, there have been few who were as creative, dynamic and versatile as Don Hewitt. The depth and breadth of his accomplishments are impossible to measure, because since the very beginnings of our business, he quite literally invented so many of the vehicles by which we now communicate the news. He will be missed by our entire industry, but most of all by his many, many friends at CBS, both past and present, who continue to be inspired by his professionalism, grit and dedication to the truth.”  — Leslie Moonves, president, CBS Corp.

"Don's creativity, drive and outright enthusiasm were an inspiration to everyone at CBS News. He shaped the television news business from its earliest moments through the creation of his masterwork, '60 Minutes,' which is still a vibrant and successful symbol of his colossal influence."  — Sean McManus, president, CBS News and Sports

“It is a sad and difficult time for all of us who work at '60 Minutes.' Don was a giant figure in our lives and will always have an impact on this broadcast — there’s a part of him in every one of us, and it affects every decision we make. He will be remembered as a brilliant editor and story teller, an irrepressible force who changed journalism forever. Those of us who knew him and worked with him will remember him simply as a great guy to be around. He  was full of life, usually armed with a joke, and he always found a way to make our stories better. I will miss Don very much.” — Jeff Fager, executive producer, "60 Minutes."

 — Matea Gold