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Ernest Leiser

Ernest Leiser (February 26, 1921 – November 26, 2002) was executive producer of The CBS Evening News.[2] He was recognized with Emmy and Peabody awards for coverage of post-war Europe, civil rights, and Vietnam. He was in charge of transitioning CBS News from radio to primarily television.[3]

Ernest S Leiser
Born Ernest S Leiser
(1921-02-26)February 26, 1921
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died November 26, 2002(2002-11-26) (aged 81)
South Nyack, New York
Education University of Chicago (AB 1941)[1]
Occupation Television news producer, writer, editor, reporter, and foreign correspondent
Title Executive Producer
Spouse(s) Caroline Leiser
Children Shelley Leiser
Nancy Leiser Foster
Nicholas Leiser ("Nick")


Early lifeEdit

Ernest Leiser was born in Philadelphia in 1921. After getting his degree from the University of Chicago, he worked for Chicago news bureaus and papers.[2]

Early careerEdit

During World War II, he reported for the "Stars and Stripes" and was one of the first reporters to reach Berlin.[4] He was also worked in military intelligence. For his service, he was decorated with the US Army's Bronze Star and the French Croix de Guerre. After the war, he worked in Frankfurt for the Overseas News Bureau. [5][6]

In 1948, he covered the Berlin Airlift.

CBS yearsEdit

He joined CBS News in 1953.[3]
He was recognized with a Peabody award for his coverage and courage for taking risk of "life and limb" during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. He was the first to get film out of the country. His coverage resulted in him sharing a Peabody Award for CBS. [2][7]

He was a central figure in the radio-to-TV transition for CBS News and the newscast he produced was the first to expand from 15 to 30 minutes, allowing the news to be more than a headline service. He was an important part of CBS's coverage of the space program, political campaigns, conventions, and elections of national significance, civil rights and Vietnam[8]

During the time Leiser was executive producer of the Evening News,[9] it went from trailing NBC's Huntley-Brinkley newscast to first place.[10] He also won Emmy Awards in three consecutive years (1969–1971) [11] for

  • Coverage of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968) and its aftermath
  • The documentary "Fathers and Sons" (1969)
  • "The World of Charlie Company (1970)"

After the Tet offensive in Vietnam, Leiser and Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam and were invited to dine with General Creighton Abrams, the commander of all forces in Vietnam who Cronkite knew from World War II. Abrams told Cronkite, "we cannot win this Goddamned war, and we ought to find a dignified way out." Leiser wrote the speech that Cronkite delivered over the air[12] that caused President Lyndon B. Johnson to say, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Johnson soon declined to run for re-election.

He also was instrumental in Dan Rather being hired and developed as a CBS reporter.[13]

At ABC with Harry Reasoner (1972–1975)Edit

When Harry Reasoner left CBS for ABC, Leiser joined him as his executive producer. [14]

Returning to CBS NewsEdit

He returned to CBS in 1975. His coverage of the 200th anniversary of America for 14​12 hours on July 4, 1976 (In Celebration of US (CBS),1976)[15] won the network the Peabody Award. [16] He became Vice President at CBS News. His coverage of the 1980 presidential campaign was awarded the Alfred I. DuPont award by Columbia University.

Later yearsEdit

In 1986 and later, he wrote that the TV news business had gone from being part of the public service required of a network to being looked at as a place to cut costs. [17][18]

He decried the thinning out of the reporting ranks, the closing down of foreign bureaus, and the lack of prime-time documentaries.
He also taught journalism as a senior fellow at the Gannett Institute at Columbia.


He died November 26, 2002 at his home in South Nyack, NY.
At the time, Dan Rather said,

Ernest Leiser was a wonderful family man and friend, a classy gentleman,

a thorough scholar, an integrity-filled journalist and visionary leader of other journalists. He repeatedly proved he was one of the bravest and best American journalists in history—and one of the few who proved it in print, radio and television.



  1. ^ "The Student Voice". University of Chicago. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Emmy-Winning CBS Newsman Ernest Leiser Pioneering Foreign Correspondent Producer Dies at 81". CBS News. November 30, 2002. Archived from the original on 2011-04-10. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Ernest S. Leiser, Producer Who Helped CBS News Move to TV, Dies at 81". New York Times. July 17, 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  4. ^ "Counterattack on Schmidt". Ernest Leiser, a Stars and Stripes writer 
  5. ^ Arthur Settel. This is Germany. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  6. ^ "Dateline: Germany" (PDF). Information Bulletin. U.S. Office of High Commissioner for Germany. March 1950. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  7. ^ "World In Crisis (1956)". University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  8. ^ "Television: The Most Intimate Medium". Time. 1966-10-14. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  9. ^ "Five Things You Didn't Hear about Walter Cronkite". Huffington Post. 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  10. ^ Leonard, Bill (1987). In the storm of the eye: a lifetime at CBS. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 91, 203. 
  11. ^ Kaplan, Mike (1981). Variety major U.S. showbusiness awards (book). Garland reference library of the humanities. Garland. pp. 128, 134, 164. 
  12. ^ "And Thats The Way It Was". Huffington Post. July 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  13. ^ Douglass K. Daniel (2009-07-20). Harry Reasoner: a life in the news. pp. 58, 128, 129, 132, 140, 141, 143. 
  14. ^ Walter Cronkite (1997). A Reporter's Life (illustrated ed.). Random House, Inc. pp. 1, 292, 32, 319–320, 358. ISBN 9780345411037. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  15. ^ "In Celebration of US (CBS),1976". University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  16. ^ "TV Guide". TV Guide. 1986-08-02. 
  17. ^ TV Guide (1986-07-28). "TV Guide magazine's August 2nd issue features comments by Ernest Leiser, former network official on CBS News" (Press release). PRN-Mediawire. 

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