Remembering Don Hewitt: “Don was Among the First to Realize: Television without Context Amounts to Pictures with Noise”

By Chris Ariens 

Statements from TV news executives on the death of Don Hewitt:

• CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves:

“In the history of journalism, there have been few who were as creative, dynamic and versatile as Don Hewitt. The depth and breadth of his accomplishments are impossible to measure, because since the very beginnings of our business, he quite literally invented so many of the vehicles by which we now communicate the news. He will be missed by our entire industry, but most of all by his many, many friends at CBS both past and present who continue to be inspired by his professionalism, grit and dedication to the truth.”

• CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus:

“Don’s creativity, drive and outright enthusiasm were an inspiration to everyone at CBS News. He shaped the television news business from its earliest moments through the creation of his masterwork, 60 MINUTES, which is still a vibrant and successful symbol of his colossal influence.”

• EP of “60 Minutes” Jeff Fager:

“It is a sad and difficult time for all of us who work at 60 Minutes. Don was a giant figure in our lives and will always have an impact on this broadcast – there’s a part of him in every one of us, and it affects every decision we make. He will be remembered as a brilliant editor and story teller, an irrepressible force who changed journalism forever. Those of us who knew him and worked with him will remember him simply as a great guy to be around. He was full of life, usually armed with a joke, and he always found a way to make our stories better. I will miss Don very much.”

• NBC News president Steve Capus:

“This is an enormous loss. Virtually everything we do everyday goes back to the innovations that Don Hewitt brought to our craft. To say he was a pioneer doesn’t do him justice. He was a visionary, a brilliant producer, master story-teller, tough as nails, and a tour de force. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Don through the years and always enjoyed his stories about his legendary productions, from presidential debates to unforgettable 60 Minutes broadcasts. His family and CBS colleagues are in the thoughts of everyone at NBC News.

• ABC News president David Westin:

“Don Hewitt taught us all by his example just how good television news could be. He was a brilliant producer, a formidable competitor and a good friend. He changed television journalism which will not be the same without him.”

Click continued to see the remembrances from TV news anchors…

• From Brian Williams:

Don Hewitt stood up to his relentless illness the very same way he fought for journalistic values. He was truly present at the creation of our medium. Don was among the first to realize: television without context amounts to pictures with noise. It is a battle we fight every day, and his memory will guide our work in the decades to come, wherever our reporting takes us, using whatever technology will allow. His work and his vision will always be the template for television news.

• From Katie Couric:

Don Hewitt was an indisputable powerhouse of network television. He set the standard and laid the foundation for 60 Minutes, and because of his vision, it continues to be a program where extraordinary journalism not only survives, but thrives. On a personal note, I will never forget his warmth, enthusiasm and support and his constant calls to me offering his suggestions and sage advice. He’s was truly one of a kind.

• From Diane Sawyer:

Don was all genius and joy. He loved that he added the first female reporter to the 60 Minutes team. He greeted every brand new story with the excitement of a cub reporter. At a fancy political dinner party, he once made me crawl under the table and out of the room to scoop the competition on some fact he had learned. (On radio. At midnight.)

He was one of those bosses who made you braver. One of those visionaries who made you believe. I loved him. And feel today a light has dimmed — one that illuminates and celebrates this world.

• From Barbara Walters:

Don Hewitt was probably the greatest news producer in television. He was original, creative, far-seeing and had an amazing gut instinct. To lose Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt at almost the same time is truly the end of a remarkable era in news.

• From Tom Brokaw:

No one in our profession was better than Don at marrying the principles of good journalism with the unique qualities of television to tell stories that were important or merely entertaining and interesting.

Although I never worked for Don, I was privileged to call him a friend — and of course we were all students of his genius.