Robert Ferrante, News-Driven Producer at CBS and NPR, Dies at 87

After 11 years at WGBH, Mr. Ferrante was hired by CBS News in 1982 to create and serve as executive producer of “Nightwatch,” broadcast from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Eastern time. “It’s everything I ever wanted to do,” he told The Globe before “Nightwatch” started. He added, “We’ll chase the sun, or meet it coming the other way, depending on where we’ll be coming from ourselves.”

He spent less than a year overseeing the program before CBS News shifted him to the “CBS Morning News” (now “CBS Mornings”), the perennially ratings-challenged competitor of NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Soon afterward CBS cut “Nightwatch” to two hours; it later existed in other formats as “Up to the Minute” and “CBS Overnight News.”

Bill Kurtis, who was then hosting “CBS Mornings News” with Diane Sawyer, recalled in an interview that Mr. Ferrante “pulled us together and said that we had a mission — not first to get ratings but to do a good job representing CBS News, and then the ratings would come.”

Ratings did rise, but then fell, forcing Mr. Ferrante off the show and into a senior producer’s job in the news division’s special events unit. Jon Katz replaced him.

“No one’s mission succeeded there,” Mr. Kurtis said. “Not mine, not his, not Jon Katz’s.”

Mr. Ferrante left CBS News amid layoffs in 1985 and soon joined the Democratic National Committee as its director of communications. But he was dismissed before the 1988 Democratic National Convention amid journalists’ complaints about security arrangements, credentials and work space.

When NPR hired him a year later for “Morning Edition,” he returned to producing news, which he did for the rest of his career.

In addition to his wife, Pamela Post-Ferrante, and daughter, Mr. Ferrante is survived by his stepdaughter, Whitney Otto; his stepson, Tyler Post; and eight grandchildren. A previous marriage, to Anne Basti, ended in divorce.

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