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That’s Me with Mike Wallace

That’s Me with Mike Wallace

 

When I opened the inter-office envelope and found this picture, with a note from Mike: “The three – tired – Musketeers” at the bottom, I just about cried.  He had been my responsibility at the 1976 Republican and Democratic conventions and the two of us and reporter Sylvia Chase had had a wonderful, successful time.

In the 70s and early 80s, network convention coverage ran “gavel to gavel,” which meant from the minute the gavel came down to open the day session until the minute that same gavel fell to close the night, we were on the air “live.”  Our job was to cover what was going on on the convention floor — and back then things really were going on.  My assignment was to make my way around the convention floor and find stories we could pitch to the control room, led by another CBS News legend, 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt.

I was anonymous; I didn’t have on one of those huge headsets and I was a “girl” so no one paid much attention to me as I wandered the floor, standing next to (or behind) big shots and eavesdropping.  (You’d be amazed what you can find out if no one thinks you’re important enough to move away from.)   Mike would listen, despite the chaos, to every story idea I brought.  Sometimes he’d ask for more details and I’d go back and listen some more, or ask questions.  Sometimes he’d say –” Nah, I don’t think so.”  And sometimes he’d take the story and go sell it to Don just as it was.

But here’s the thing: no matter how well I had helped to get coherent research and backgrounders to him, attending state and issue causes in the morning, before the session began, he was astonishing in his capacity to take that information, combine it with what was happening, and create a coherent, meaningful report. I have never seen a better assimilator of information, or someone more gifted at relaying it to an audience.

Everyone has spoken of his interviewing skills and everyone has a favorite story.  I remember when my husband was a psych resident.  By then, we knew Mike well.  We were watching 60 Minutes and Mike was interviewing a general — I wish I could remember which one.  After about five minutes, my husband turned to me in astonishment and said “Mike Wallace interviews like a psychiatrist!”  What he meant was that his wording, and his follow up questions, were so precise, so well-positioned, that it seemed what it took young doctors years to learn just came naturally to him.  Of course, the level of planning and preparation he did enabled that “spontaneous” question placement, but he was the master.

Take a look at this video.

I have so many personal memories too: sitting on the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park while our son Josh and his grandson Peter played in the sandbox; Mike telling my psychiatrist husband about his own battles with depression and how grateful he was for the treatment he had received.  Mike stopping at my desk to ask how our young family was doing– his son Chris still lived in Chicago then, so our family felt familiar to him.  Him telling me the story of becoming a journalist; how CBS News president Richard Salant had made him go off the air for a year; no Parliament commercials, no acting, nothing.  He needed to “cleanse” himself from his commercial years to be a credible journalist in Salant’s eyes.  He did it, too.  And, he said, he’d never regretted it.

My favorite memory, though, is a selfish one.  After the Conventions, we were somewhere in a car, maybe going to the airport.  Mike said to me “They told me I’d be glad to have you – that you would be great at the conventions.  I just want you to know that you were.”  Can you imagine getting a compliment like that from Mike Wallace?

I am so proud and grateful to have known him and worked with him.  What did you think of him?

 

Related stories:

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Read more: , , ,

Photo from Cynthia Samuels

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19 comments

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5:53AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Thanks for the article.

11:52PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

I always enjoyed watching Mike Wallace on 60 mins ea Sunday eve while I was growing up. :)

8:05PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Mike Wallace..he told it how it was and didn't care who' s toes he stepped on .. .Thank YOU Mike!

12:42PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

He was a force to be reckoned with, no doubt about it. What a testament he is to journalistic greatness! Unfortunately tough reporting is a dying art. :-(

11:49AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

What wonderful memories. And what a picture to treasure. He, like Edward R. Murrow and Bill Moyers, was a broadcasting legend. All of them have given us news of events and people in thorough, no-nonsense ways. He obviously didn't suffer fools gladly.
Thank you for sharing your memories and R.I.P. Mike Wallace, you have earned it.

8:05AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Mike Wallace was the last of the old school real journalists. All we have left now are puppets who would know an incisive question if it bit them on the ass. The worst is, this often isn't a consequence of the people themselves, but of the media that controls the content they deliver.

7:04AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Thanks

7:02AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

I'm really going to miss Mike Wallace. 60 Minutes won't be the same without him.

6:28AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Mr Wallace had a well deserved reputation and career being "fair and balanced", honest and a 'fact checker'. Not something our current crop of so called reports can claim for their own. It's also unfortunate his son chooses not to emulate his father's attributes.

5:24AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

He was an amazing journalist. His legacy lives on.

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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