Sunday, April 8, 2012

In Memoriam: Mike Wallace

Mike Wallace is one of the most famous new journalist of all time, and while I did not get to see most of his first hand his legacy lives on within the television series 60 Minutes,  throughout other pieces of popular culture.

Mike Wallace was with the news program 60 Minutes from the beginning (1968), and while the show was not a massive hit from the beginning, the show became a top ten hit in 1977-1978.  The show remained in the top ten until 2001, and was often the most watched program of the year.  Mike Wallace was one of many new reporters but his solemn reporting often drew people to admire and respect the work that he did throughout the years.

Wallace hit hard at everyone from the public to private sector.  Challenging different people from members of the Nixon administration in the post Watergate era to Barbara Streisand.  His interview style challenged the interviewees.  Wallace did his research on the people he was interviewing; he also was the master of point out the obvious with questions that clarified and phrases like "forgive me but...." or "come on."

One the major situations Mike Wallace reported on was the 1995 was the whistle blower for tobacco industry Jeffrey Wigand.  Wigand had accused Brown & Williamson of intentionally putting extra nicotine in cigarettes.  The story ended up falling flat because CBS feared they would be sued for releasing an interview with Wigand because he had signed a non-disclosure deal with the company.  The New York Times released pieces of the story and showed this element, and exposed the unfortunate events at the end of Wallace's career.  In the final broadcast Wallace showed dismay over the story that had been gutted.  This represent not a low point, but the sign of changes in journalism.  If this sounds like a film, you are right this even was eventually made into a movie called The Insider where Russell Crowe played Wigand and Christopher Plummer played Mike Wallace.

Wallace is regarded as one of the best television journalist of all time, and his legacy will live out in quality work he put in throughout the many years on 60 Minutes, and even after he retired.  This man was   an incredible new reporter, and his memory will live on.

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