Mike Wallace Retires

I’m going to hit the pause button on vacation entries for a sec to chime in on Mike Wallace’s retirement. This is a story that floated through the ‘blogosphere’ (gotta add that word to the spell checker) before it was officially confirmed.

I’m a big 60 Minutes fan. I watched the show when it was on Thursday nights. I watched when the Sunday show used to be produced live. Back then, Wallace would begin the show with stories that needed updating since the Sunday papers went to bed.

Life was so very simple before 24 hour cable news.

Mike Wallace was a broadcaster more than a newsman – at least by training and resume. He hosted a talk show, PM East (where I believe Barbra Streisand got her TV start) and a game show. He delivered live commercials as cigarette smoke snaked skyward.

I think the role of journalistic training (i.e. a journalism degree) is overrated. A well read and bright person is really what’s needed.

His strength on 60 Minutes, where his reputation was made, was the confrontation interview. He was the guy who walked in with the videotape, showing the evil doer being evil.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t have the guts to do that sort of thing. I’ve seen people thrashed on camera (Andy Houlding on Channel 8, as an example). The camera records, it does not protect.

With Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace gone, it will probably be a new 60 Minutes. Maybe that’s good. I don’t know what they have planned. Much of what magazine TV has become hasn’t been all that sparkling, so I’m a little scared.

60 Minutes is an anachronism in broadcasting and has stayed successful in spite of that!

They were among the last to go from film to tape. They continue to produce long stories… very long stories, often about obscure people or people out of the mainstream. They have old folks on the air, with little sex appeal… except Lara Logan… definitely except Lara Logan.

There will still be Morley Safer, though his role has already been diminished. Ed Bradley and Steve Kroft remain&#185. I like Andy Rooney, but he’s certainly not the first of the ‘back of the book’ commentators, and doesn’t represent the show’s early days (except he did write for Harry Reasoner, a 60 Minutes original).

I wish they still read viewer mail.

There are other correspondents, but they were the early signs of the diminution of the show.

How long a run can a show or its staff have? Must the shift to younger, fresher talent be inevitable? Do you trade your family in if they are perceived as being too old?

&#185 – I ‘ran into’ Kroft on the street in Manhattan. He seemed very nice. Genuinely so. He’s been on the show since 1989 and I still think of him as the new guy.

Somebody Want To Get Me Don Hewitt?

Though Don Hewitt is no longer the executive producer of 60 Minutes, tonight’s first story was researched, reported, edited and approved on his watch. The story concerned the Patriot Missile system and its shortcomings.

I have no problem with the facts as reported. I wouldn’t know if they were wrong anyway. That’s an interesting part of the news business. The giver of news must establish that his organization is absolutely trustworthy.

That’s why what I saw, though a minor point, irks me so much.

In the story, I watched a Patriot Missile during the first Gulf War shoot down a Scud. As the two hit, an explosion filled the center of the screen with bright light and a large boom was heard.

In real life, the boom is heard long after the light! The speed of light is much faster that the speed of sound.

Since I had recorded this show, I rolled the video back to look and make sure I had seen what I thought I’d seen. There is no doubt, on 60 Minutes the light and sound happened at the same instant.

For these two events to have taken place contemporaneously the camera had to be real close (it wasn’t) or someone screwed with the tape to provide a look that was consistent with what people expect.

This was the wrong thing to do. There are no small lies in the news business.