Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Icon Gone

Mike Wallace died over the weekend at age 93.

He was a fearless “60 Minutes” reporter full time until his upper 80s, and part time for a few more years, finally retiring in 2008. CBS waived it’s rule of forced retirement at age 65 (do they really still have that stupid policy?). He interviewed plenty of famous people including suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian, several prominent figures in the Watergate scandal and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini (during the hostage crisis). His interviews often seemed more like interrogations and some of his subjects deserved that kind of questioning.

Wallace started his journalistic career in print, then radio and ultimately television during its early years. He was the first person hired for “60 Minutes” in 1968. His famous style included something that came to be called “ambush interviewing,” in which he’d corner reluctant interviewees, camera crew with him. Before the early 1960s he also did entertainment reporting and commercials, but switched to mostly news after the death of a son in 1962.

He suffered depression in his 80s, something I did not realize till I read some articles before writing this post. Apparently he became a spokesman of sorts for depression, trying to remove the stigma that is still sometimes attached to that condition.

I used to watch “60 Minutes” regularly in the 1980s. His reporting stood out, partly for the guts it took and partly because it was sometimes obnoxious. But I respected him for doing whatever it took to get to the truth. He seemed to be unbiased in his reporting. His son Chris Wallace is a Fox News reporter/anchor/show host and one of the least biased on that opinion-not-news service; guess he learned something from Dad.

Mike Wallace is great role model for aging too. The numbers on your driver’s license should never get in the way of doing what you want for as long as you can.

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