Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Mike Wallace Story

Mike Wallace interviewing Salavador Dali, in 1957 or 1958



By Nicholas Stix

Mike Wallace had matinee idol looks.

He had impeccably treasonous, left-wing credentials, which he underscored in 1989 during a panel discussion, when he said that if were embedded as a reporter in an enemy army, and learned that the enemy planned an ambush on American fighting men, he would do nothing to try and save the American troops.

Wallace had a reputation as the toughest interviewer in the business. What that meant was that if he didn’t like your politics, he would be relentlessly hostile; if you were an ally, he’d be a pussy cat.

One time when Wallace interviewed purported political opponent Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, Wallace was a pussy cat. The only explanation I can hazard for Wallace’s performance is that CBS may have been seeking to lure O’Reilly to sign with the Tiffany Network.

The 60 Minutes method was to learn about stories where less glamorous but real local journalists had gotten the scoop, and then fly in, retrace the real journalists’ footsteps, and present the re-done story on prime time, giving no credit to the real journalists, and getting the credit for the “scoop.”

In the wake of 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes’ attempt to subvert the 2004 presidential election through using counterfeit documents meant to impugn the National Guard record of incumbent Republican President George W. Bush, John Cook wrote a report for the Chicago Tribune on the real role of the producer on TV news magazines, including 60 Minutes. Cook reported that reporters like Wallace aren’t real reporters at all, but rather talking heads, essentially actors reading a script. The real research, reporting, and interviewing is all done, for better or worse, by the producers. Each on-camera interview is either done by the segment’s producer, or is a replay of one done by the producer, with the star playing the producer’s role.

And that’s The Mike Wallace Story.

No comments: