CBS TV news pioneer dies at 86
Sig Mickelson established gavel-to-gavel convention coverage, hired Walter Cronkite
By Steve McClellan -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/2/2000 8:00:00 PM
TV news pioneer Siegfried "Sig" Mickelson, the first president of CBS News and one of the founders and one-time president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, died Friday, March 24, of pneumonia. He was 86 and lived in San Diego.
Mickelson played a major role in developing TV news. He was president of CBS News from 1959 to 1961 but oversaw CBS' TV news department from its infancy in 1951 as the first director of news and public affairs, CBS Television.
In 1954, when the network merged its TV and radio news operations, Mickelson got the nod to run it as vice president and general manager, CBS News. Among his innovations was establishing CBS News as the first network to gather its own worldwide film footage in house.
Mickelson also was a key figure in shaping the concept of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the quadrennial political conventions. He was chairman of the TV networks' committee arranging coverage of the 1952 political conventions-the first conventions in which television played an important national role.
Mickelson was responsible for bringing the Edward R. Murrow-hosted See It Now to the air and for bringing Fred Friendly to CBS to produce it. The program is remembered most for its exposé of the rabid anti-Communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Mickelson also brought Walter Cronkite to CBS News, hiring him in 1952 to anchor the network' s convention coverage and later naming him to anchor the network' s flagship evening newscast. Indeed, he is credited with coining the term "anchorman" to define the one person to whom all sources of information would flow in a newscast.
In 1955, Mickelson told Broadcasting & Cable that broadcasters had an obligation to avoid distorting the news and to be complete, objective yet interesting in their reporting. But his journalistic ethics evolved over time. Years after the fact, he wrote in his book The Electric Mirror that CBS News staffers hid microphones in the Credentials Committee room at the 1952 Republican Convention. At the time, he said, "such ethical and legal considerations were a matter of slight concern."
Mickelson, a native of Minnesota, joined CBS in 1943 as news editor at its owned radio station WCCO(AM) Minneapolis. He moved to New York and the network in 1949 as director of public affairs. He left CBS in 1961 to run Time-Life Broadcasting for nine years and, after that, taught at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and Louisiana State University. Mickelson served as head of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty from 1975 to 1978.
"Sig Mickelson helped create the foundation on which CBS News still stands today," said Andrew Heyward, president, CBS News.
Mickelson is survived by his second wife, Elena; two children from his first marriage, Ann Mickelson de Brauw and Dr. Alan Mickelson; two stepchildren and seven grandchildren.
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