Former CBS News Executive Emerson Stone, a two-time Peabody Award winner, has died at the age of 86, from complications of a fall in his Greenwich, Conn., home on Sunday. He died Monday at Greenwich Hospital.
Stone worked for CBS News nearly 35 years, first in radio, where he brought Charles Osgood to the network, and led it to 24-hour news coverage. He also oversaw the 1977 radio broadcast of Ask President Carter, a live two-hour program hosted by Walter Cronkite. Stone was a CBS Radio VP by then, and produced the show while hovering a finger on the kill switch for any particularly inappropriate callers. The show was later parodied by Saturday Night Live and became a popular conversation topic of the time, but was never repeated.
Stone’s other CBS News roles include as the first VP of News Practices, beginning in 1982, following the massively controversial documentary The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, that the network had aired earlier in the year. In all, Stone was with the network news operation longer than anyone else to that point.
He started in the mail room in 1952, and rose through the ranks while working with Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, among others, as a writer, editor and producer. He was named director of the Radio Department in 1967 and vice president, CBS News, Radio in 1971. In that role, he created the radio network’s Newsfeed to affiliates, and recruited the popular Osgood from local news for the daily Newsbreak and later The Osgood File.
Stone also developed a separate youth-oriented network in 1981 for CBS, RadioRadio, now known as Spectrum Radio Network.
Stone was born Feb. 15, 1928 in New Haven, Conn., and graduated from Yale in 1948 with a degree in English. His brother Jon Stone, who died in 1997, was head writer and director of Sesame Street for nearly 30 years. He is survived by his wife, Louisa; sister Diana; and three daughters, Mary Louisa, Melisande Grace and Kristin Alexandra; and six grandchildren.
The family plans to celebrate Stone’s life at 2pm on Jan. 17 at the Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich. Those wanting to contribute in his memory may wish to donate to Doctors Without Borders or Yale University.