Burt Reinhardt, a television pioneer who helped lead the evolution of 24-hour news coverage as president of CNN, died Tuesday at 91, according to family members.
In October of 1979, I had an appointment to meet with Burt Reinhardt in his office on West Peachtree Street and shared my vision of a digital newsroom with him. He was a key part of the founding team that was building CNN for Ted Turner. After our conversation, he said the words you expect only in fictional novels. “You just might be in the right place at the right time.” — And I was. Burt hired me to help build CNN and I reported directly to him for the next 5 years. His confidence in me, and his willingness to let me stray out of the strict confines of my job as head of CNN’s computer, libraries and telecommunications department to appear on the air as a technology reporter from time to time made my life an adventure that can’t be duplicated. I will always be indebted to Mr. Reinhardt for the rare opportunity he afforded me 32 years ago. – Robert Barnes
Here is what CNN had to say about Burt this evening.
(CNN) — Burt Reinhardt, a television pioneer who helped lead the evolution of 24-hour news coverage as president of CNN, died Tuesday at 91, according to family members.
Reinhardt died in Atlanta from complications of a series of strokes earlier this year, according to his daughter, Cheryl Reinhardt.
Cable News Network founder Ted Turner remembered Reinhardt, who stayed away from the limelight, as an influential, if taciturn, executive.
“We both wanted to run a great news organization,” Turner said. “He just did a masterful job. He got the stories covered, but he did it within the budget.”
After a stint as a vice president, Reinhardt served as CNN president from 1983 to 1990. He later was vice chairman of the organization until his retirement in 2000.
Former CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said Reinhardt was a leader who made the trains run on time.
“He had a steely demeanor, but had a heart of gold,” said Amanpour, who said Reinhardt hired her as a producer-reporter in New York after she pleaded her case.
“I’m not sure CNN would be here without him,” said Turner, who launched CNN in 1980. His colleague was an “integral part of getting the whole operation going and keeping it going. He ran it close to 20 years.”
A native of New York, Burton Reinhardt filmed U.S. Army Signal Corps combat footage during World War II, including Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s historic return to the Philippines.
Reinhardt later served as news editor for Fox Movietone News, according to his daughter. He also was vice president for United Press International Television News and executive vice president at Paramount Pictures, where he nurtured the development of home video.
“I tell people that in my opinion, he’s probably the most important and powerful news executive you’ve never heard of,” said nephew Harlan Reinhardt.
“I’m sure a lot of people will talk about Burt’s fiscal responsibility, but I think what set Burt apart from everyone else who has been at CNN was that he was quietly strong,” said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. “And behind the scenes, this man has integrity and he’s very competitive, but he wants to do things the right way. He’s fair, but firm and he treated everyone with respect.”
Reinhardt helped solidify the CNN logo as a strong symbol.
The logo, now commonly known as a “bug” in broadcast jargon, is almost always on the television screen during CNN’s news coverage. This idea was the brainchild of Reinhardt.
Reinhardt, who grew up in the Bronx, is survived by his wife, Diana Shaw; children, Cheryl Reinhardt of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Gary Reinhardt of Provincetown, Massachusetts; and one grandchild. He was predeceased by son, Barry, and his identical twin, Sheldon.