Trailblazing journalist Shana Alexander (search), whose verbal skirmishes with conservative James J. Kilpatrick (search) on CBS' "60 Minutes" were spoofed in a "Saturday Night Live" skit, has died of cancer. She was 79.

Alexander died at an assisted living facility in Hermosa Beach, her niece, Hannah Bentley, said Thursday night.

Alexander wrote for magazines including Newsweek and National Geographic and was the first female staff writer employed by Life magazine. She was also the first female editor at McCall's magazine.

But Alexander was best known for her "Point-Counterpoint" segments with Kilpatrick at the end of each "60 Minutes" broadcast in the late 1970s.

"She was one of the first female journalists to become a big-time name in television journalism, when women were few and far between," the show's founding executive producer, Don Hewitt, told The Associated Press.

"Point-Counterpart" was so popular it was frequently parodied in a "Saturday Night Live" skit. Jane Curtin played the liberal Alexander role and Dan Aykroyd, in the Kilpatrick role, began his remarks with the line, "Jane, you ignorant slut."

Alexander reported on some of the biggest news stories of her time, including the early days of the women's rights movement, President Nixon's handling of the Vietnam War and the slaying of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.

She also wrote a number of nonfiction books, including "Anyone's Daughter," a biography of kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst.