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60 Minutes

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Don Hewitt, who invented ``60 Minutes'' and has been its executive producer since the stopwatch began ticking in 1968, announced he is stepping down next year.

Hewitt, 80, will be succeeded by Jeff Fager, executive producer of ``60 Minutes II.''

``60 Minutes'' remains a Sunday night fixture on CBS, the longest-running prime-time show on the air and still the most popular newsmagazine. Hewitt is credited with inventing the modern-day format of a television newsmagazine.

As its behind-the-scenes leader, Hewitt decides which stories reported by correspondents Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley Steve Kroft and Lesley Stahl go on the air.

His potential retirement has been a sticky subject at CBS, where executives wanted to set a succession plan in place. Hewitt, meanwhile, has said, ``I want to die at my desk.''

On stepping down from ``60 Minutes,'' Hewitt will become executive producer at CBS News, in charge of developing new projects and offering advice to his successor. Terms of CBS' new multi-year agreement with Hewitt were not revealed.

``There is no way to overstate what Don Hewitt has meant to CBS,'' network president Leslie Moonves said, ``and there aren't too many peoople who have literally created standards by which an entire industry has operated. Don has done all of that and more.''

Fager, 48, was widely considered Hewitt's heir apparent. He worked as a producer under Hewitt for five years, was executive producer of the ``CBS Evening News'' and helped establish ``60 Minutes II'' as a successful franchise of its own. His replacement at that newsmagazine will be appointed soon.

Hewitt began working at CBS News in 1948 and produced the first televised presidential debate in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
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