Don Hewitt, one of the pioneers of TV news, died today at 86 of pancreatic cancer, CBS reports. Hewitt all but invented television news over the course of his more than 60-year career, directing legends Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. He was behind the 1968 launch of 60 Minutes, and directed the first televised presidential debate—something he later came to regret, believing it started a corrosive relationship between politicians and TV.
Hewitt, inspired by Life magazine, took the then-standard hour-long documentary format and broke it into three mini-documentaries with 60 Minutes. By its second season, it was among the top 10 shows on television. Asked what the show’s secret was, Hewitt would always reply, “It’s the four words every child knows: Tell me a story.”