PROF. GORDON GREB
CAN MIKE WALLACE REALLY BE GONE?
...dead at 93
It's a concept extremely difficult to really accept!
By PROF. GORDON GREB
Gordon Greb is a retired professor of journalism and broadcast
communications who once worked as a CBS newsman during
the era of Edward R. Murrow and has been an on-air newsman.
They say Mike Wallace is dead, but I dont believe it! This is the man whose
journalistic jousting took CBSs 60 Minutes to the top of the TV ratings and helped keep it there for a generation. Wallace being gone is a concept almost impossible to accept.
It seems more likely that CBS has just sent him off on another assignment. Or maybe somebody slipped up at the wire services and got the facts wrong.
They say Mike Wallace is dead and yet theres lots of evidence to the contrary. A good investigative reporter should look into this. Mike Wallace kept massive audiences watching TV sets every Sunday night for nearly half a century. All of us, myself included, were still waiting for him to break another big story any day now in the pursuit of truth. That's what he has always done, when we least expected it.
I learned of Wallace's "death" on Sunday, the day of his regular broadcasts for years and years. Ever since CBS news producer Don Hewitt first hired him to co-host 60 Minutes with Harry Reasoner in l968, Sunday was the day when we expected Mike Wallace to carry out his assignments. It seems impossible that there isn't a Mike Wallace around to cover this big story for us.
According to the news reports, Mike Wallace died in a rest home in New Canaan, Conn., Saturday night, surrounded by his family members. He was 93, just a month shy of his 94th birthday.
Here was a journalist who was never content with slipshod news reporting. He had no qualms going after the worlds highest and the mightiest with the most daring and embarrassing of questions. He was fearless in firing hardballs at the most powerful and influential people in the world -- no matter how great they were supposed to be. Richard Nixon, Ayatollah Khomeini, Lyndon Johnson, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muammar Quaddafi, Ronald Reagan, Gen. Manuel Noriega--they all felt the sting of his questions.
Thanks to Mike Wallace, CBS News had to keep in its employ the best lawyers in
the country. Take the case, for example, of General Westmoreland, to whom the
network chose to apologize after Mike Wallace accused the U.S. military of
falsifying the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. For this Wallace
openly criticized the network for its timidity and kept his own job. Wallace
knew he had the truth on his side.
Whether young or old, everyone needs mentors, people showing us how to do the
right thing, particularly in our own profession. Most of those I admired were at CBS, where I worked in my younger days. Ed Murrow, Charles Collingwood, Eric Sevareid, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Andy Rooney, Howard K. Smith-- the list goes on and on.
Of course, Mike Wallace became one of my mentors from the moment I first heard him in l948 on a Chicago radio station when I was at the University of Minnesota. He had the most electrifying voice Id ever heard on radio and soon taught me how to use a microphone with that sharp and clear enunciated delivery of his. By the time he was doing his Night Beat TV program out of New York, I was ready to imitate the Mike Wallace interviewing style on a San Jose TV station in 1960.
Invited to interview State Assembly candidate Alfred Alquist over Channel 11 (KNTV), I arranged for the crew to create a studio set up that matched that of Mike Wallace, putting a spotlight on me and my guest against a pitch black background. This was so successful that News Director Roger Orr immediately hired me to co-anchor the 6 oclock news. It was so much fun I nearly quit my teaching job at San Jose State College to make commercial television my regular career.
No, Mike Wallace is not gone. His style is now part of broadcast history and I know we're going to experience it again whenever some newly inflated egos need
flattening and America needs someone to pick up where he left off in the pursuit of truth.
©2012 by Gordon Greb. This column first posted April 9, 2012.
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