Monday, July 9, 2012

Profile of "60 Minutes" Mike Wallace Last Night

I watched THIS one hour profile on CBS last night of legendary "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace, who died in April at the age of 93, and really enjoyed it.

I loved "60 Minutes" for many decades, dating back to the 1970s when I first saw Mike Wallace using hidden cameras to expose corrupt auto mechanics and small-time con men.  The spectacle of one adult confronting another on TV, calling them a liar and a fraud to their face and proving it with video footage while the target sweats and squirms, was a compelling revelation to me as an elementary school kid.

Despite my long-time love of the show, I thought that this profile of Mike Wallace last night highlighted (and maybe even celebrated) some of its worst tendencies from a journalistic standpoint.

"He was one of the true giants of television," host Steve Kroft begins. "His reporting style and interviewing technique influenced generations of journalists."  But then just 2 minutes later, Kroft asks Wallace fawningly in a vintage TV interview, "I've never seen a situation in an interview where you did not dominate, in terms of personality, force of personality," to which Wallace responds nonchalantly, "Thank you. That's very flattering, I guess."

Is that really a proper goal for a reporter, especially such a prominent and influential one: to personally "dominate" every moment in every interview in every story?  That also suggests the central role of self-serving, selective editing during the production of "60 Minutes" stories.

A mere 12 minutes into the show, a further clip from this same interview shows Steve Kroft saying to Wallace, "This is what some people say about you: that you're a grandstander, that you're the most important person in the story, that you're more important than the story sometimes." Wallace answers, "I've got to plead guilty, I suppose."

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