Don Hewitt, 60 Minutes Creator

Don Hewitt, a legend at CBS News for decades and the creator of 60 Minutes, has died at the age of 86.

Hewitt worked at CBS News for more than 60 years. In 1948, he "directed the first network television newscast." He went on to direct CBS news anchors there from Murrow to Cronkite to Rather. He founded 60 Minutes—and the entire TV news magazine format—in 1968. He presided over the famous Nixon-Kennedy TV debate, in which an absence of makeup supposedly scared the nation away from Nixon. And he had his hardcore moments—these were his instructions to Dan Rather after JFK was assassinated, and rumors surfaced that a guy named Zapruder had a tape of the whole thing:

Don Hewitt, 60 Minutes Creator

"Dan. Go to his house. Tell him you wanna see the tape. After he shows it to ya, sock him. Take it. Take it back to our station and let them put it on tape. We'll have it. Then take it back and give it to him. Now they can only get you for assault. They can't get you for robbery because you just gave it back, and let the CBS lawyers argue about who it belongs to."

Hewitt stepped down from 60 Minutes in 2004 to serve as executive producer of CBS News. He was hospitalized with pancreatic cancer last March, and now it's killed him.

The biggest stain on Hewitt's career was the Jeffrey Wigand case—later made into the movie The Insider—in which Hewitt caved to CBS management's demands to censor a 60 Minutes spot about dirty business by tobacco executives. The company feared a lawsuit so big it would kill them, and Hewitt complied with their wishes, pissing off more journalistically inclined colleagues. He later admitted he wasn't proud of himself. Oh well. We all make mistakes. He was a giant and CBS will miss him. Here's Al Pacino's grand speech, from the movie, decrying the BUSINESSMEN posing as NEWSMEN. Journalism lives, we hope.