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CBS News Pioneer Don Hewitt Dies At 86

This article is more than 10 years old.
Against a backdrop of the famous "60 Minutes" stop watch, Don Hewitt, the program's creator and executive producer, answers questions about the show during a session on "60 Minutes" during CBS' Winter Press Tour, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2004, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Rene Macura)
Against a backdrop of the famous "60 Minutes" stop watch, Don Hewitt, the program's creator and executive producer, answers questions about the show during a session on "60 Minutes" during CBS' Winter Press Tour, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2004, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)

Don Hewitt, the CBS Newsman who invented "60 Minutes" and produced the popular newsmagazine for 36 years, has died. He was 86.

He died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday at his home in Bridgehampton, N.Y., said CBS.

Hewitt joined CBS News in television's infancy in 1948, and produced the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.

He made his mark in the late 1960s when CBS agreed to try his idea of a one-hour broadcast that mixed hard news and feature stories. The television newsmagazine was born on Sept. 24, 1968, when the "60 Minutes" stopwatch began ticking.

He dreamed of a television version of Life, the dominant magazine of the mid-20th century, where interviews with entertainers could coexist with investigations that exposed corporate malfeasance.

"The formula is simple," he wrote in a memoir in 2001, "and it's reduced to four words every kid in the world knows: Tell me a story. It's that easy."

Hard-driven reporter Mike Wallace, Hewitt's first hire, became the journalist those in power least liked on their doorstep. Harry Reasoner, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer also reported for the show.

"60 Minutes" won 73 Emmy Awards, 13 DuPont/Columbia University Awards and nine Peabody Awards during Hewitt's stewardship, which ended in 2004.

Fellow CBS legend Walter Cronkite died less than five weeks ago, on July 17. Reacting to his passing, Hewitt had said, "How many news organizations get the chance to bask in the sunshine of a half-century of Edward R. Murrow followed by a half-century of Walter Cronkite?"

This program aired on August 19, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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