That was his answer.
Tim Russert had asked him what he would want to be his epitaph.
He rarely gave answers.
He did ask a lot of tough questions. Very tough.
In fact, he was the first to do it on Television.
1955. “Night Beat” became an instant hit that New Yorkers began referring to as “brow beat.” His relentless questioning of his subjects proved to be a compelling alternative to the polite chit-chat practiced by early television hosts.
Wallace played a huge role in “60 Minutes”‘ rise to the top of the ratings to become the number-one program of all time, with an unprecedented 23 seasons on the Nielsen annual top 10 list – five as the number-one program.
Besides his 21 Emmy Awards, Wallace was the recipient of five DuPont-Columbia journalism and five Peabody Awards, and was the Paul White Award winner in 1991, the highest honor given by the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award grand prize and television first prize in 1996. In June of 1991, he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
Tough but Fair.
Everybody knew he did his homework, he knew the answers to his questions. He was the hardest worker. You couldn’t fool him.
Wallace didn’t just interview people. He interrogated them. He cross-examined them. Sometimes he eviscerated them pitilessly. His weapons were many: thorough research, a cocked eyebrow, a skeptical “Come on” and a question so direct it took your breath away.
He was well aware that his reputation arrived at an interview before he did, said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and Wallace’s long-time producer at “60 Minutes.”
“He loved it,” Fager said Sunday. “He loved that part of Mike Wallace. He loved being Mike Wallace. He loved the fact that if he showed up for an interview, it made people nervous. … He knew, and he knew that everybody else knew, that he was going to get to the truth. And that’s what motivated him.”
Nope, no nonsense. Dr. Keirsey explains:
Because preemption of any kind takes a lot of energy and determination, it is difficult for Initiators to switch from the proactive to the reactive mode. So Logistical Initiators [Supervisors] find it difficult to respond positively to the initiatives of others. It is not so much that they do not wish to respond, it is rather that in so doing they give up control of the situation. So it is too much to expect Initiators of any kind, Supervisors included, to respond in those situations that demand of them their best efforts to control proceedings. Imagine a plate umpire patiently listening to the complaints of a disgruntled batter who struck out. Not likely. [Personology, p 114] [emphasis added]
Wallace took to heart the old reporter’s pledge to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He characterized himself as “nosy and insistent.” He lectured Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, on corruption. He lectured Yassir Arafat on violence. He asked the Ayatollah Khoumeini if he were crazy. He grappled with Louis Farrakhan. He battled with Ayn Rand.
“Every Sunday night, America tuned in to see what questions he would ask and who would be exposed to his hard-charging quest for the truth. Mike’s tough questioning inspired generations of journalists.” — ABC News President Ben Sherwood.
His take-no-prisoners style became famous.
Supervising is making sure that others do as they should do, and don’t do as they shouldn’t do, and some preemptive monitors naturally gravitate to this role in their relations with others. Supervisors are eager to enforce the rules of procedure “standard operating procedures” [For Mike Wallace it was the Truth] —and they can be serious about seeing to it that others toe the mark or else face the consequences. They do not hesitate to give their stamp of approval, nor do they withhold their directives or demands for improvement. Like seasoned, stalwart umpires, controlling Logistical Initiators [Supervisors] will set their jaw and make the call on anyone who steps up to bat. They even feel obligated to do so, and they’re sometimes surprised when others don’t evince gratitude for their judgments. [Personology, page 115] [emphasis added]
Plus he interviewed a host of iconic characters in his sixty years of broadcasting: Vladimir Horwitz, Leonard Bernstein, Johnny Carson, Luciano Pavarotti, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Salvador Dali, Barbra Streisand.
However, the Guardians are also called the “Melancholics” (Latin, Depressive) — clinical depression can stalk them. Underneath the confident, even cocky exterior, Mike Wallace had times when he was clinically depressed, suicidal. Three times over the years, he was treated for severe depression, and revealed a few years back that he once tried to end it all with an overdose of sleeping pills. At first he tried to hide it thinking it was a sign of weakness, but eventually came out and he admitted it, hoping others would benefit from it.
But he soldiered on, he was working full time in his eighties, it was hard for him to relax — working was his joy.
He likes to ask hard questions, he interrupts too often and, since he owns the microphone, he takes charge. But it’s not a newscast. — Mike Wallace