|At CBS, played key role in creation of “60 Minutes.”|
Class of 1949
A veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, Robert Chandler was a reporter, documentary producer, publicist and senior television news executive, who spent most of his career — 22 years — at CBS News. Although his name was relatively unknown to many viewers, he played a vital role in creating “60 Minutes,” television’s most successful newsmagazine, and, as director of CBS’s election unit in the late 1960s, he created and operated the CBS News Poll and supervised the network’s election and convention coverage through the mid-1970s.
In 1966, Chandler was producing and directing documentaries and election coverage for CBS, when his colleague Don Hewitt proposed a new format for a television newsmagazine: instead of the traditional hour-long documentary on one subject, the show would have several segments with different correspondents handling different subjects. Even though the top executives at CBS were not keen on the idea, Chandler was one of Hewitt’s most enthusiastic and vocal supporters. The first “60 Minutes” was broadcast on Sept. 24, 1968. It has been going strong ever since.
“In my more than half a century at CBS News, I don’t recall anyone having a better fix on what ‘60 Minutes’ should be than Bob Chandler,” Hewitt once said.
Chandler was director of operations for the CBS News Election Unit when he created the CBS News Poll. In 1976, he negotiated the partnership that established The New York Times/CBS News Poll. During his tenure at the Election Unit, he helped introduce exit polls as an instrument of election-night voting analysis. He also served as a director of News Election Service, the predecessor of the now defunct Voter News Service.
His documentaries for CBS included “The People of South Vietnam: How They Feel About the War” (1967), which he wrote and co-produced, and “Under Surveillance” (1971), a look at the government’s surveillance of dissenters, which he produced.
Chandler was born Robert Zuckerkandle in Brooklyn on Sept. 25, 1928. He used Chandler as a pen name before having his surname legally changed. At City College, where he earned a degree in economics, he was editor of The Campus. Following graduation, he was hired by Variety and Daily Variety, the show business publications, and worked there as a reporter, critic and editor from 1950 to 1961, except for two years when he served in Germany with the Army during the Korean war. At Variety, he covered the then-fledgling TV industry.
In 1961, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer entered television production, Chandler joined MGM and established its TV publicity department. Two years later, he joined CBS News as director of information services; he then became manager of public affairs broadcasts and, in 1966, director of operations of the Election Unit. In 1968, Chandler was named executive producer and director of the Election Unit, a post he held until after the 1972 elections.
Chandler became vice president, public affairs broadcasts in 1973, in charge of election coverage, archives, ancillary services and network liaison, and also assisted in the supervision of all documentary and magazine programs. In 1976, he supervised the presidential campaign coverage, including primaries, national political conventions and election-night coverage.
In 1977, Chandler was named vice president, documentaries, and took charge of “60 Minutes,” “CBS Reports” and a number of other public affairs and religious broadcasts. He became senior vice president for administration in 1980. Following his early retirement from CBS News in 1985, he joined NBC as managing editor of the Roger Mudd-Connie Chung magazine series “1986.” In 1990, he joined MacNeil/Lehrer Productions to create and be executive producer of “Learning in America: Schools That Work,” a two-hour PBS documentary that examined successful elementary education.
Chandler died on Dec. 11, 2008. He was 80.