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If you like Mike Wallace's story, you might also like:
Sam Donaldson,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Nicholas Kristof,
Charles Kuralt,
Dan Rather,
Ted Turner and
Bob Woodward

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Mike Wallace
 
Mike Wallace
Profile of Mike Wallace Biography of Mike Wallace Interview with Mike Wallace Mike Wallace Photo Gallery

Mike Wallace Biography

CBS News Correspondent

Mike Wallace Date of birth: May 9, 1918
Date of death: April 7, 2012

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  Mike Wallace

Mike Wallace was born Myron Wallace in Brookline, Massachusetts. His immigrant father ran a wholesale grocery business and later became an insurance broker. Young Myron had some interest in sports and music, but only found his true calling in college, when he first walked into the campus radio station at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He graduated from the University in 1939 and immediately went to work in radio, first for a local station in Ann Arbor, then in Detroit, at that time still a regional center for radio drama. By the 1940s he was working as a news writer and announcer for the radio station of the Chicago Sun newspaper.

Mike Wallace Biography Photo
During World War II, Wallace served as a communications officer in the U.S. Navy. He returned to Chicago after the war, and became a news reporter for radio station WMAQ. By now he had adopted the nickname Mike, and as Mike Wallace he was to become one of America's best-known broadcasters. In 1951s he moved to New York and joined the CBS network for the first time. For a time he handled a variety of broadcasting chores, and made the move to television without immediately finding his niche. He worked on Broadway briefly, playing a leading role in the play Reclining Figure. It was only after leaving CBS in 1955 that he made his first lasting mark on the public consciousness.

In 1956, he made a startling breakthrough with the program Nightbeat. For the first time, a television interviewer challenged his guests with difficult questions, and his audience with difficult subject matter. His confrontational, provocative style fascinated the New York public, and while many public figures dreaded answering Wallace's probing questions, they were eager to be seen by his growing audience. Soon Wallace was reaching a national public with his programs, Mike Wallace Interviews, and the original, Peabody Award-winning Biography program. For a time Wallace dispersed his energies with multiple commitments, hosting entertainment programs and game shows one day and reporting hard news the next, but after the accidental death of his son, Peter, he decided to narrow his focus and signed an exclusive contract with CBS News. For the next few years he covered most of the great news stories of the 1960s, including several assignments to Vietnam, beginning in 1962, with repeated visits between 1967 and 1971.

Mike Wallace Biography Photo
In 1968, Wallace received the assignment that was to define the mature phase of his career, and change the course of broadcast journalism. CBS News producer Don Hewitt invited Wallace to co-host and edit a new program with an unprecedented format, a prime-time news magazine. 60 Minutes premiered on September 24, 1968. At first, the news magazine program lingered at the bottom of the weekly ratings but CBS let the program find its audience slowly. Within a decade it had cracked the top ten, and by the end of the '70s, it had become the most influential prime time news show in the history of television. Week after week it was the top-rated program of any kind, as an audience of unprecedented size tuned in to see Wallace and company expose fraud and corruption in hitherto untouchable places. Wallace made skillful use of the new, more portable video technology to take his crew where no television reporters had gone before, and to bring the finished story to the American public in record time. Critics of the program dismissed Wallace's use of hidden cameras and surprise confrontations as "ambush journalism," and a few of the program's targets filed lawsuits against CBS, but not one was ever prosecuted successfully.

Over the years, the a roll call of world leaders have subjected themselves to Wallace's famously confrontational interview style, including George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Deng Xiaoping, Manuel Noriega, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Menachem Begin, Anwar el-Sadat, Yasser Arafat, the Shah of Iran and Muammar Qaddafi.

Mike Wallace Biography Photo
Wallace surprised the American public when he disclosed that he had been treated for clinical depression in the mid-1980s. The revelation seemed so at odds with Wallace's confident, assertive public demeanor, it prompted a larger awareness of a widespread problem, and the example of Wallace's own successful treatment has prompted many others to seek help.

He won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1996 for the CBS Reports broadcast "In the Killing Fields of America," a three-hour report he co-anchored on violence in America. His other professional honors include 19 Emmy Awards, three DuPont-Columbia University Awards, and three Peabody Awards. In 1991, he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

Well into his 80s, Mike Wallace was still reporting 20 stories a year for 60 Minutes. In 2006, he retired, after more than 60 years in the news business and 38 consecutive seasons with 60 Minutes. His first volume of memoirs, Close Encounters, was published in 1984. A second volume, Between You and Me, appeared in 2005. He has a son, TV newsman Chris Wallace, and a daughter, Pauline. He lives in New York City with his wife, Mary Yates.




This page last revised on Apr 06, 2006 13:12 EST
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