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The producer for "60 Minutes" recounts his early experiences and his more than fifty years with CBS, including the first broadcasts of political conventions, the Kennedy-Nixon debates, and the events portrayed in the film "The Insider."
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"As a child of the movies, I was torn between wanting to be Julian Marsh, the Broadway producer in 42nd Street ... and Hildy Johnson, the hellbent-for-leather reporter in The Front Page," writes Don Hewitt in his engaging autobiography. Luckily for him, he found a way to be both at CBS News, most notably as producer of 60 Minutes. Hewitt barely knew what television was when a fellow print journalist told him of an opening at CBS in 1948 ("You mean, where you sit at home and watch little pictures in a box?" he asked), but his decisive personality suited the new medium's spontaneous techniques. Born in 1922 and raised in New Rochelle, New York, he sees himself as an average guy whose middle-of-the-road political and social attitudes are shared by the American television audience. He modeled 60 Minutes on Life magazine: "a family friend in the home of millions of Americans each week, serious and light-hearted in the same issue" with one prime directive--to tell a story.
In chatty, colloquial prose, Hewitt hits the show's high and low points, including a frank discussion of the compromises made to air an interview with Big Tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand and a blistering critique of the way those compromises were depicted in the movie The Insider. He pays warm tribute to his reporters, particularly Mike Wallace, writes appreciatively of CBS founder William Paley, and candidly discusses his differences with Paley's successor, Laurence Tisch. Hewitt doesn't pretend to be a saint; he accepts the mingled imperatives of journalism and commerce that drive TV news without (usually) sounding too defensive. His memoir pungently chronicles the evolution of broadcast journalism and expresses faith in the idealism that still fires the men and women who practice it. --Wendy SmithAbout the Author:
Don Hewitt is the executive producer of 60 Minutes. He joined CBS News in 1948 and was the producer-director of Douglas Edwards with the News and the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite before creating 60 Minutes in 1968. He lives in New York City.
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