Pioneering journo was key leader at '60 Minutes'

Esther Kartiganer, a senior producer at “60 Minutes” at a time when few women held similar positions of authority in TV journalism, died Aug. 1 of a heart attack in Aspen, Colo. She was 74.

Kartiganer won 13 Emmy Awards during more than 40 years at CBS. At “60 Minutes,” where she was senior editor and then senior producer, she was partly responsible for an early story on shaken baby syndrome and for a piece on sulfites that led to new regulations.

Her long tenure at the CBS newsmagazine was ended, however, by the controversy surrounding the 2004 report on “60 Minutes II” about possible irregularities regarding George W. Bush’s military service. She was held responsible for what an independent panel deemed an unfair and misleading report, and she subsequently sued the network; a settlement was ultimately reached by the two sides.

She was nevertheless held in high esteem by many. CBS News senior producer Allen Alter, who secured his first post at the network with Kartiganer’s help, said, “In later years, she became the conscience of ’60 Minutes’ and ensured that what appeared on the air was journalistically sound and accurately reflected the reporting.”

Born in Berlin (the family moved to the U.S. when she was 1), Kartiganer grew up in New York and graduated from Brandeis U. in 1959, having majored in political science. She began at CBS as a temporary assistant during the 1964 presidential primary season and rose through the ranks. Kartiganer worked on documentaries for the network and became a producer there in 1976. She directed news show “Up to the Minute” from 1979-81 and joined “60 Minutes” in 1982.

Kartiganer continued her affiliation with Brandeis through her life, helping to found the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the university. CBS funded a professorship in the department upon her retirement from the network.

She also served as a trustee of the university and on its board of fellows.

Kartiganer is survived her brother and two nieces.

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