Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sat Aug 20 14:17:38 2011
Subject: CBS NEWS EXEC LANE VENARDOS DIES

FORMER CBS NEWS VICE PRESIDENT LANE VENARDOS,
AWARD-WINNING PRODUCER OF MAJOR NEWS EVENTS
AND DOCUMENTARIES, DIES AT 67

Lane Venardos, an award-winning producer of live news, special events and documentaries over a 30 year career with CBS News, has died at the age of 67. Venardos suffered a heart attack in his home in Maui, HI., last evening (19) where he retired several years ago.

“Lane was a wonderful and talented man who had a great gift: he had the ability to make everyone around him smile and laugh no matter what the circumstances,” said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and the executive producer of 60 MINUTES. “So many of us at CBS News loved him and we will miss him very much.”

Venardos played an integral, behind-the-scenes role in CBS News coverage of major events and breaking news beginning in 1986, when he was named executive producer of Special Events, eventually becoming the unit’s deputy director, director, and ultimately, vice president, Hard News and Special Events. The job took him across the globe and once into the living rooms of millions of Americans. During special coverage of the events in China’s Tiananmen Square in May 1989 -- broadcast live during an interruption of the CBS hit “Dallas,” -- millions watched the large, bespectacled Venardos arguing with Chinese officials who were trying to shut down his satellite news operation.

He produced most of CBS News’ live coverage of the Persian Gulf War, including “America Tonight,” a weeknight news program he created to maximize coverage of the war broadcast at 11:30 P.M. and anchored by Charles Kuralt and Lesley Stahl. Venardos also supervised coverage of world summits in Moscow, Malta, Iceland, London, Bonn, Rome, Paris, Tokyo and Beijing, in addition to Hirohito’s funeral in Japan in 1989, and the historic meeting between the leaders of China and the Soviet Union that same year in Beijing. He was the executive producer of CBS News coverage of the political campaigns of 1986, ’88, ’90, ’92 and ’98.

Venardos’ documentary work included two highly acclaimed programs. He produced the CBS News special celebrating the life of Lucille Ball, “Lucy,” which was produced and broadcast on the day of the star’s death, April 26, 1989. He won an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University award for the seminal documentary “48 HOURS on Crack Street,” the two-hour look at the life of crack cocaine addicts during the drug epidemic of the mid-Eighties. The program was the precursor of the current CBS News magazine “48 HOURS MYSTERY.”

Venardos’ work earned him 13 Emmy awards.

Before joining special events, Venardos spent a dozen years on the CBS EVENING NEWS, where he rose to be its New-York based executive producer in 1984. He previously served in the CBS News Washington Bureau, building his solid news reputation as a senior producer and producer in the nation’s capital during the 1970s, including traveling the world as a CBS News White House producer.

Venardos’ path to the powerhouse CBS News Washington Bureau began at WBBM Radio in Chicago in 1968, where he was managing editor for two years. After a brief stint as an editor for NBC, he came to New York as a producer of special events for CBS Radio News in 1971. He moved to Washington D.C. the next year to become senior producer for CBS Radio News. He then returned to Chicago to become the assistant news director for the CBS Television affiliate WBBM-TV, where he became the acting news director. He came back to Washington in September 1974 to become a producer for the “CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite.”

Venardos retired in January of 2000 but remained a consultant to CBS News through election night that year. Directly following his retirement, he returned to New York periodically in a new role: using his considerable special event talents to produce several of the SURVIVOR live final episodes for the CBS Television Network. He also worked on other reality television programs, including projects for the reality TV producer Mark Burnett.

Venardos was born June 20, 1944 in Alton, Ill., and was graduated from Southern Illinois State University in 1966 with a B.A. degree in business administration.

He is survived by his wife, Karen (nee Keegan), a brother, John, and four children: Kevin, Kimberly, Kelly Venardos-Ward and Kasey Venardos-Gilhuly.