Class of 1950
Philip Scheffler worked for CBS for more than half a century, much of that time as the senior producer and then the executive editor of “60 Minutes,” the most influential and most-watched television news program in history. Earlier, he was a writer, reporter and editor at CBS who produced a slew of documentaries and special news broadcasts that won just about every prize the television industry offers: Emmys, Peabodys and an Alfred DuPont-Columbia award, as well as honors from Ohio State University, the University of Missouri and the National Education Association. Scheffler’s work has taken him around the globe, including five assignments in Vietnam that resulted in three two-hour specials on American policy in Southeast Asia. He has reported from more than 50 other countries and from almost every state in this country.
A lifelong New Yorker, Scheffler was born on Sept. 16, 1930, graduated from City College in 1950 and got his master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1951. He has been honored by both institutions, garnering an Alumni Award from Columbia in 1981 for distinguished contributions to journalism and the Townsend Harris Medal from CCNY in 1997 for outstanding postgraduate achievement.
His professional life began in March 1951, when he was hired by CBS as a copy boy for “Douglas Edwards and the News” and became its first “street reporter.” The man who hired him was the show’s director and producer, Don Hewitt. Some time later, their paths would cross again. Before that happened, though, Scheffler joined the staff of “The CBS Evening News” and other regularly scheduled news broadcasts as a writer, reporter and editor. From 1960 to 1963, he was a reporter and associate producer on “Eyewitness,” a weekly half-hour series covering each week’s top story. In 1964, he began producing documentaries and special news broadcasts, including “CBS Reports,” turning out more than 100 such programs.
In 1971, when “60 Minutes” was three years old and expanded from a show that aired every other week to one that was broadcast weekly, Scheffler was once again tapped by Hewitt, the executive producer and creator of the program, coming on board as a segment producer. He worked on almost 60 stories that covered such diverse subjects as politics and government, medicine, social issues, law, and military affairs. In 1980, he was appointed senior producer (a title that was changed to executive editor in 1996). As Hewitt’s right-hand man for 23 years, he supervised every “60 Minutes” report, more than 2,000 of them. When Scheffler technically retired in 2003 after 52 years with CBS News, Hewitt said, “Everybody should be as lucky as I’ve been to have had Phil Scheffler at my side.”
For the following year, Scheffler stayed on at CBS for a few days a week as a contributing editor and consultant. Then Hewitt retired and Scheffler turned to outside projects, including reviewing prospective documentaries for PBS and teaching at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.