We recently saw the passing of Mr. Don Hewitt, the creator of the venerable TV news program 60 Minutes. He was a rarity, a television producer who hailed from a print background rather than rising from the ranks of broadcast radio. His background was far more rooted in the world of newspapers and the printed media. Nonetheless, his respect for and appreciation of radio was huge.
David Hinckley at the New York Daily News bring us the words of former CBS News producer and essayist Liz Dribben:
“Whenever he’d be out in the field with a correspondent, particularly Mike Wallace, and they found something that could be breaking and exclusive,” says Dribben, “they’d call in to the CBS radio desk to file a story – no matter what, where or when.”
In addition, he was an avid listener, often corralling Dribben to bombard her with questions about a name or event he had heard about over the air. (In this respect, it’s an interesting parallel to many print and broadcast journalists who surf blogs for story leads.)
While the media landscape has changed, and in fact seems to be in semi-permanent flux, his view of the vitality of radio is one I must continue to endorse as well. Over the weekend, while I was back home in New Orleans for a conference, radio was the only media I really had time for, piping in the news and music via Internet over my iPhone.
As I entered multi-tasking mode, I was still able to absorb news of the local scene thanks to the impassioned voices of the local stations. News items that get condensed to a short column in print or a two-minute sound bite were being discussed in depth and detail while callers brought a variety of viewpoints and rants to the table for spice. All the interactivity found on Internet forums condensed through one’s headphones.
Mr. Hewitt may not have climbed the ranks of the broadcast ladder from radio, but he picked up on its value quickly.
Hats off to Mr. Hewitt. I hope wherever he is that he and Walter Cronkite are having a good time!