Madeline Amgott, Television Producer, Dies at 92

July 22, 2014

By DOUGLAS MARTIN

July 22, 2014

Madeline Amgott, one of the few women to produce news programs in the male-dominated television universe of the 1950s and ’60s, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 92.

The cause was lymphoma, her family said.

In New York City, Ms. Amgott produced what was believed to be the first effort by a network affiliate to produce a news program independent of a network news staff. The program, “The Big News,” was broadcast on WABC-TV in the early 1960s.

She also produced episodes of “60 Minutes” and a version for children called “30 Minutes,” which was broadcast after Saturday-morning cartoons and earned her three Daytime Emmy Awards.

In the 1970s, Ms. Amgott produced episodes of “Not for Women Only” with Barbara Walters, an issues-oriented discussion program. In 1987 she produced Bill Moyers’s PBS series “In Search of the Constitution,” in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the document. She also produced segments of the “Morning News” for CBS.

Madeline Rochelle Barotz was born in the Bronx on Aug. 31, 1921. She graduated from Brooklyn College and worked for the Washington bureau of The San Diego Union (which became The San Diego Union-Tribune in a merger and is today called U-T San Diego). She later moved back to New York and joined CBS News in 1955.

Her family said she took the job for the money; her landlord in Manhattan had threatened to evict her out of concern that Ms. Amgott, recently divorced and the mother of two, could no longer pay the rent.

At CBS she helped come up with an idea for a daytime news program directed toward women. The program, “Calendar,” hosted by Harry Reasoner, was seen in the early ’60s.

“I knew there was an audience of intelligent women who might want to see something on in daytime other than soap operas,” she was quoted as saying in Douglass K. Daniel’s 2009 book, “Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News.”

She left the program when she was not promoted to fill an opening for a producer’s position. But her subsequent job as a producer with WABC was perceived as a feminist breakthrough.

The 2006 book “Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975,” edited by Barbara J. Love, said of Ms. Amgott, “The media powers that be thought the news would go to hell if women produced it.”

Ms. Amgott later helped handle press relations for the National Organization for Women when it was founded in 1966. In 1980 she moderated a debate between New York Democratic senatorial candidates. In 2003 she produced an hourlong film for PBS about the artist Hans Hofmann.

In 1975 she was awarded a Matrix Award by New York Women in Communications.

Ms. Amgott’s first marriage, to David Karr, ended in divorce. Her second husband, Milton Amgott, died in 2000.

She is survived by her sons, Seth Amgott and Andrew Karr; her daughter, Katharine Karr; her stepdaughter, Margo Amgott; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

Originally published by The New York Times