"As a child of the movies, I was torn between wanting to be Julian Marsh, the Broadway producer in 42nd Street ... and Hildy Johnson, the hellbent-for-leather reporter in The Front Page," writes Don Hewitt in his engaging autobiography. Luckily for him, he found a way to be both at CBS News, most notably as producer of 60 Minutes. Hewitt barely knew what television was when a fellow print journalist told him of an opening at CBS in 1948 ("You mean, where you sit at home and watch little pictures in a box?" he asked), but his decisive personality suited the new medium's spontaneous techniques. Born in 1922 and raised in New Rochelle, New York, he sees himself as an average guy whose middle-of-the-road political and social attitudes are shared by the American television audience. He modeled 60 Minutes on Life magazine: "a family friend in the home of millions of Americans each week, serious and light-hearted in the same issue" with one prime directive--to tell a story.
In chatty, colloquial prose, Hewitt hits the show's high and low points, including a frank discussion of the compromises made to air an interview with Big Tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand and a blistering critique of the way those compromises were depicted in the movie The Insider. He pays warm tribute to his reporters, particularly Mike Wallace, writes appreciatively of CBS founder William Paley, and candidly discusses his differences with Paley's successor, Laurence Tisch. Hewitt doesn't pretend to be a saint; he accepts the mingled imperatives of journalism and commerce that drive TV news without (usually) sounding too defensive. His memoir pungently chronicles the evolution of broadcast journalism and expresses faith in the idealism that still fires the men and women who practice it. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Hewitt, the founder and executive producer of 60 Minutes, delivers on his title's promise: his memoir of more than half a century in journalism is full of good stories. He dropped out of college in the early 1940s before getting a job as a copy boy at two newspapers in New York. He then worked for Stars and Stripes during WWII. After the war, he made the jump to a new medium: television. His descriptions of TV news' infancy is fascinating for those born in a later era: e.g., when he first worked at CBS News, Hewitt and his co-workers had to do one broadcast for the East Coast and a second one for the West Coast because videotape hadn't been invented. In his years at CBS, Hewitt has met celebrities, presidents and other world leaders and he has stories about them all as well as about the investigative pieces that earned 60 Minutes much of its renown. (There aren't many people who can say that they've annoyed both Frank Sinatra and Hillary Rodham Clinton Hewitt is one of them.) He tells it as he sees it, defending traditional television news journalists, while bluntly noting that they produce entertainment as well as news. He has similar praise for his 60 Minutes crew and the stories they've produced. At times near the end of the book, however, particularly when he excoriates The Insider, the movie about the Jeffrey Wigand/tobacco scandal, Hewitt's bluntness doesn't serve him so well. But he's chronicled the career of a pathbreaking but old-fashioned journalist who has created a lot of news and a lot of memories. Illus. (Apr.) Forecast: An institution in TV news, Hewitt has a huge media line-up to launch this book: in addition to first serial in Talk magazine, he will appear on 20/20 with Barbara Walters, on the Today Show, Larry King, NPR's Fresh Air and other national TV and radio shows. First printing is 50,000. Expect big sales.
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