Remembering Mike Wallace

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

I’ve been a fan of 60 Minutes for about 8 years.  Many of the segments I’ve watched have been informative, educational, and entertaining. 

I love the show!

Over the years the staples of the show have been dying: Ed Bradley, Andy Rooney, and last week, Mike Wallace.

They were actually the three members of the 60 Minutes team I liked most. 

Bradley was a man of colour who I could identify with as he was one of the few journalists of colour to be on T.V for years.  Rooney was a real writer who wrote a syndicated column and told what he felt was the truth; no sugar coating, and that’s how I wrote my column, The Condor’s View, in university. 

Wallace was the interviewer/interrogator who came up with many firsts: he invented the ambush style of interviewing where he’d walk up on people and ask them questions.  And he was the first journalist to use the hidden camera technique that is now used by journalists globally.   

While watching many videos of Mike Wallace, and listening to his fellow staff members talk about him over the last week, I feel I can relate to Wallace in some ways.  He started 60 Minutes when he was 50.  Yes, 50!  For 38 years he did what he loved.  And he was an innovator.  As mentioned above he was the first to do things that everyone now imitates.  And he did them well, earning him 21 Emmy awards. 

What struck me most was that Wallace started journalism after his son Peter past on at the age of 19.  His son wanted to be a journalist.  Wallace said to himself: “Hey, he was gonna be a writer…I’m gonna do something that’s gonna make Peter proud.” 

As I get older I think to myself “What am I gonna do?”  I’m a starving artist and freelance journalist who is trying to make his mark.  And recently I’ve been thinking, “I want my mom to see that I’ve made it before she’s gone.”  Learning that Wallace helped start the great televised news magazine at age 50 has given me hope. 

Born Myron Wallace in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1918, Wallace graduated college with a B average.  He joined the navy, and then did a lot of radio and T.V work until his good friend Don Hewit started 60 Minutes in 1968.  The show took a while to capture a wide audience but when it did it became the most viewed show in Television history matched only by The Cosby Show and All In The Family

CBS, the network which ran 60 Minutes, is described by Wallace as doing “news in a socially useful way.”  He describes 60 Minutes as, “We became to our viewers “Those are the people who tell it like it is.””

Wallace interviewed every American President in office while he was on 60 Minutes as well as the leaders of China, Iran, and Russia.  He interviewed controversial peoples like Malcom X, Luis Farrakhan, Yasser Arafat, and others such as a priest accused of molesting children, several members of the Italian mafia, a soldier who admits to partaking in a massacre in Vietnam, and the man who turned the cigarette industry on its head, chemist Jeffrey Wigand.  The Wigand story was turned into the Hollywood blockbuster The Insider

Wallace never pulled punches. 

The 60 Minutes legend told Vladimir Putin that nothing in Russia happens without a bribe; he called the Ayatollah Khomeini a “lunatic” via quoting Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat; he challenged Nancy Reagan on being paid 1 million dollars for a 2 week visit to Japan; he broke the story on the corruption of the Nixon administration by reading a list of all the illegal things they did to their faces.

“I’m nosy and insistent and not to be pushed aside,” said Wallace in an interview with colleague Steve Kroft.

Thank Creator for that!

Wallace died at the age of 93 on Saturday April 7, 2012.  I won’t only remember Mike Wallace, I’ll be studying him and reminding myself that he started to make his mark at age 50 and he did it to honour his son.


About Black Coffee Poet

Black Coffee Poet is a mixed race poet, essayist, and journalist who focuses on Social Justice, Indigenous Rights, STOPPING Violence Against Women, Film, and Literature.
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