Remembering Don Hewitt


Speaking with Jane Skinner on FNC's "Happening Now"
August 19, 2009

I really grew up with that whole generation of the giants of CBS. And first to lose Walter Cronkite a few weeks ago and now to lose Don Hewitt. So much of the stuff that we see on TV, Don Hewitt created.

His autobiography was called "Tell Me a Story" and where that came from was, that that was his idea of what a perfect "60 Minutes" piece was. It wasn't, you know, sort of the old conventional journalism, start with the most important fact, then go to the second most important fact but rather tell me a story. Almost like you were sitting and telling a friend or a kid a story and you know, you don't always begin with the most important part, maybe you begin with an interesting anecdote.

He didn't feel that the stories were the most important part of "60 Minutes" he believed the correspondents were. Almost like you tuned in, back in the day, to watch "Kojak" with Telly Savalas, to see what he was up to this week, you tuned in to watch my dad and Morley Safer and Ed Bradley and what they were up to that week.


Speaking with Gregg Jarrett on FNC's "Happening Now"
August 19, 2009

I just saw Don at Walter Cronkite's funeral and he looked frail but he was still able to have the brightness in his eyes, that creative brightness that he had. He was the most creative executive producer, I think, in television news.
Oddly, you would think that if you become an executive producer that you would have had to have been creative but that really is not the case, I think, in television news. Many executive producers are very organized and can lead a group well but they don't have any vision, per se. And Don had the most incredible vision about news and creating a really watchable program. That's, of course, what he did with "60 Minutes" but he was a director also early on. So it was a combination of directing and producing and creativity that made him the best of all time. I really believe that.
He directed the debates between Kennedy and Nixon, you know, that classic, memorable debate in which Nixon was perspiring and Kennedy looked so good. And Nixon had declined makeup. And I remember Don saying, "Mr. Nixon, I really think you should wear some makeup!" And Nixon saying, "nope, I'm not going to." And it really profoundly affected his appearance.

He told stories [on "60 Minutes"] but he also created the "black hat, white hat" concept of news. In other words you create a good guy and a bad guy truly by the way you tell the story. And you know, the good guys really were the ones who were searching for the truth and the bad guys were the ones who were creating havoc with the ordinary man. And I think everyone favored, of course, you got on the right side of right and you wouldn't allow the bad guy to get away. 

He created that [black hat/white hat] concept and also he understood the value of telegenic characters in a story. And that was not very "journalistic" some would say but the reality is, in doing so, he created a compelling story. In other words if you someone who was utterly boring and not interesting to look at then he would try and find a different character, if you will. It was like casting a movie. Instead of casting a story. The story has the individuals that you have to have for certain stories but other stories you could actually look around and find someone who can tell that particular story about health care better than someone else -- a more compelling speaker.

Another thing he used to always say about "60 Minutes" is it's not necessarily what the story was. It was what Mike and Morley and Ed Bradley and the rest of them were doing. What they went out to find. In other words, he created, in many ways, the "star system."