Remembering Mike Wallace
Among the many tributes that have appeared since the passing of legendary investigative journalist and "60 Minutes" anchor Mike Wallace is one from the Washington Post that noted that "the four most dreaded words in the English language for anyone hiding a secret were 'Mike Wallace is here.'"
I will never forget one of the founders of a company we worked with many years ago telling me about the nightmare he had after his company struggled with their first few public quarters - that Mike Wallace was coming up the driveway of the vacation home he had bought after his company went public. Wallace was feared and respected for asking the tough questions and being a pure journalist in situations where something needed to be exposed for the good of the public. He very much embodied the spirit of a crusading investigative journalist and his prime time national network program -- which used to mean much more in past years than it does today -- gave him the ideal vehicle for exposing and reporting on wrong-doing in corporate or political matters in a way that no one really could match.
Some of the coverage of Wallace's passing focused on the evolution of journalism, in general, a topic we often discuss in Beyond The Hype. An interesting assessment of this was laid out in the PopCultureMeetsHistory blog:
Mike Wallace’s career parallels and illustrates the major shifts in American journalism during the second half of the 20th century. In the aftermath of the unifying experience of World War II, reporters were more inclined to accept public pronouncements from government officials. Following the twin shocks of Vietnam and Watergate, however, journalists became more skeptical and confrontational, and Wallace and “60 Minutes” helped lead the way.
I was one of those young people who was inspired by journalist Edward R. Murrows' exposure of Senator Joe McCarthy's Communist witch hunt, portrayed so well in the movie "Goodnight and Good Luck" a few years ago. I was pleased that my 19-year-old asked to watch the movie with my husband and I a few weeks ago and wants to share it with his friends. It's encouraging to see young people respecting the kind of bravery that the right kind of crusading journalism really takes and the impact it can have.
It is encouraging that "60 Minutes" has survived Wallace's retirement and will now survive his passing. He leaves behind a strong legacy of getting to and reporting the truth, which is something that has become more difficult to decipher in this fuzzy era in which people receive their news from less than reliable sources. Rest in peace, Mr. Wallace, and thank you.