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Bill Small, Longtime TV News Exec, Dies at 93

Small served as CBS News Washington Bureau Chief and NBC News President

Bill Small, who served as CBS News Washington Bureau Chief and NBC News President, died Sunday morning of a “brief illness unrelated to the coronavirus,” the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced. He was 93.

Small’s 12-year run as the network’s Bureau Chief, from 1962 to 1974, coincided with a number of major events, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.,  the Vietnam War, and Watergate. His efforts also helped push “CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite” to the top of the ratings for two decades.

“Bill Small was one of the ‘greats’ of our television news industry. In his time as a news executive at both NBC and CBS, he had an uncanny eye for talent and unwavering dedication to journalism,” NATAS Chairman Terry O’Reilly said.  “Those who were brought to the network news world by Bill include: Marvin Kalb, Dan Rather, Bob Schieffer, Ed Bradley, Lesley Stahl, Diane Sawyer, Susan Zirinsky, Connie Chung, Martha Teichner, Bernard Shaw, and so many more.”

The CBS Washington bureau was built thanks to Small’s ability to draft talent from within CBS – including the likes of Eric Sevareid, Harry Reasoner and Dan Rather – as well as bring in producers and reporters for their first commercial network news positions, like Bob Schieffer, Ed Bradley, Bernard Shaw and Bill Moyers. He was also instrumental in recruiting women into the once-underrepresented arena of network news, like, Diane Sawyer, Lesley Stahl, Susan Zirinsky and Connie Chung.

Small was later named president of NBC News in 1979, where he helped facilitate the move of Tom Brokaw to co-anchor of the “Today Show” and oversaw coverage of the election of the Iran hostage crisis and Ronald Reagan’s win in the 1980 presidential election. In 1982, he became president of United Press International, the second largest news agency in the U.S. Later on he would serve as a professor at Fordham University and also, from 2000 to 2010, as the chairman of the News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

“He was a titan of television journalism, nurturing the first amendment in many a fledgling reporter and guiding the coverage of some of the seminal moments of our country’s history,” Adam Sharp, NATAS President and CEO, said in a statement. “The Academy and the broadcast news industry has lost one of its seminal heroes. We extend our prayers and condolences to his family and to all those gifted by his gracious tutelage.”