Philip Scheffler, First TV Street Reporter at CBS News, Dies at 85

By Mark Joyella 

Philip Scheffler, the very first television street reporter at CBS News, and later a documentary producer and executive editor of 60 Minutes, died today in New York City. He was 85.

“Phil was a guiding force behind the success of 60 Minutes for more than two decades,” said Jeff Fager, executive producer of 60 Minutes, who considered Scheffler a mentor. “Don Hewitt often said he couldn’t have done it without him. He was a first-class journalist, an admirable human being, and a great friend to many of us. We will miss him very much.”

Scheffler was hired in 1951 as a copy boy for “Douglas Edwards with the News,” where his boss, Hewitt, directed him to create cue cards so Edwards wouldn’t have to look down at his scripts:

“My first job at CBS Television News,” said Scheffler, “was to hand print Douglas Edwards’ copy on two-by-three-foot cue cards. Then, when we were on the air, I would hold them up next to the camera lens and move them up a line at a time for Doug to read. My arms were always tired and sore, so I asked Don if the camera could move in closer. He put on a wide-angle lens and moved the camera to within 10 feet of Doug, and I started typing the copy using wide adding-machine paper and a huge-type typewriter. It was the first crude teleprompter, but I didn’t have the wit to develop it” said Scheffler in 2001.

That same year, Scheffler became the network’s very first street reporter. His first field assignment was to ask people whether they thought Gen. Dwight Eisenhower should enter politics and run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Scheffler reported for another CBS News program, Eyewitness, and later served as an associate producer for The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, where he covered the Kennedy assassination before joining the documentary unit in 1964.

At 60 Minutes, Scheffler produced stories for Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner and Dan Rather. He became senior producer of the program in 1980, and was later promoted to executive producer–always the right hand man to Hewitt:

Scheffler oversaw the reporting from the field and handled most of the producers’ journalistic issues, enabling Hewitt to focus almost exclusively on shaping the newsmagazine’s stories. When tempers flared in the screening room between Hewitt and one of his correspondents, such as Mike Wallace or Morley Safer, it was the professorial Scheffler, sporting a bow tie and close-cropped beard, who played referee.