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Sig Mickelson; CBS Official Boosted Cronkite's Career

Media: Executive who became news division chief picked newsman to head '52 party convention coverage.

March 26, 2000|From Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Sig Mickelson, who helped build CBS News during the early days of television and made Walter Cronkite a national figure, has died. He was 86.

The first president of CBS News, Mickelson died Friday at Scripps Mercy Hospital of complications from pneumonia, his wife said Saturday. He had been hospitalized since Monday.

"Sig was undoubtedly one of the pioneers of television news," Cronkite said. "Much of what we accomplished can be traced to his leadership in the founding days of this incredible medium."

Mickelson was put in charge of news and public affairs at CBS Television in 1951 after eight years with CBS Radio.

He helped arrange the first commercially sponsored television broadcasts of political events, the 1952 Republican and Democratic conventions, and assigned Washington newsman Cronkite to anchor the coverage.

"It is for his selection of Walter Cronkite that Sig will be remembered forever," said Don Hewitt, who directed coverage of those conventions and went on to create the TV news show "60 Minutes."

Mickelson hired Fred Friendly, who also became a president of CBS News, to collaborate with Edward R. Murrow on "See It Now," the documentary series famed for a piece that led to the downfall of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) in 1954, according to CBS News.

In 1953, Mickelson oversaw the first same-day U.S. broadcast of a foreign event, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and he went on to help expand the network's international coverage.

He was named the first president of the CBS News Division in 1959, but left the company to lead the international broadcast division of Time Inc. Mickelson later taught at Northwestern, San Diego State and Louisiana State universities and wrote seven books, including "The Decade That Shaped Television News," published in 1998.

He was born in Clinton, Minn., and earned his master's degree at the University of Minnesota. His first CBS job was at Minneapolis radio station WCCO. He reported from political conventions for CBS Radio in 1948 and was called to New York headquarters in 1949.

His first wife, Mabel Brown, died in 1985. Besides his second wife, Elena, whom he wed in 1986, he is survived by two children from his first marriage, two stepchildren and seven grandchildren.

Funeral plans are pending.

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