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

Related Links:
CBS News
Wallace Remembered
Wallace's Struggle
Wallace House

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Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace Interview (page: 6 / 7)

CBS News Correspondent

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  Mike Wallace

Where do you get your drive? In the mid-70s 60 Minutes became a 52-week a year program. It must take an unbelievable amount of work to produce those pieces. Where does that passion come from?

Mike Wallace: I think because I came late to the game, I felt that I had more to prove, probably, than some others. I find that women have more drive because they have more to prove in television reporting. So, what I had to do was do more of it, work harder at it and in addition, I loved the chore. I mean to work for 60 Minutes, and to be able to go any place in the world, do any story, have enough time on the air, et cetera, there's simply no job in journalism like it. At the beginning, it was a dream. Even now, at the age of 84, I work with people who are half my age or less, and it's the draw of the story. If there is a good story going, why not be there? The only thing, or the main thing that makes it a drag today, is the fact that you have to get on airplanes, and in order to get on airplanes you carry a lot of luggage because you don't trust the airlines to get it there. You have to take off your clothes. You have to walk a mile and a half to the gate, all of that kind of stuff. Frankly, flying is a pain in the ass in 2002. There comes a time. So, I'm cutting back by half, I believe, for the next little while.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Your contract continues for the next couple of years, doesn't it?

Mike Wallace: Yes. Two more years, until I am 86.

And then?

Mike Wallace: We'll renegotiate.

You have come under fire for some of the aggressive things you and your producers have done to uncover fraud. For example, the Medicaid fraud piece which involved the setting up of a clinic in Chicago, can you talk about that?

Mike Wallace: I am happy to talk about it.

We did what any sensible reporter would do, except that if you have a television camera involved and you have a television tube involved, you want the audience to be able to see what they can see. We had heard that there was corruption going on in laboratories in Chicago, and what we did was, we hid a camera behind a mirror and we talked to some of the people who were committing the fraud. They were quite candid in what they were saying. Then I came out from behind because if I was going to talk to them, I wanted to be on camera talking to them. They were taken aback, and in effect their pudding came spilling out. In effect, what they said was, "Yes, we kited our bills," or "We overcharged," or "We didn't do work that we said that we had done," and so forth. This was back in the '70s, I guess, at a time when this kind of thing in television simply was not done.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

It is done more today.

Mike Wallace: A lot more today, and we don't do it as much today. What are you after? Are you after light or heat? If you are after light, fine, but if you are after drama, after heat -- and there is obviously a certain amount of drama involved in coming upon somebody who is doing something criminal. You see it happening in front of you, that is dramatic. But there are other ways to tell the story and we did not want to become a caricature of ourselves. Other people started to do the same thing, so we figured we would go back to doing it in a more traditional way. Nothing has been diminished as a result.

There was an ad for 60 Minutes that I am sure you are well familiar with, "The four most dreaded words in the English language: Mike Wallace is here." Is that flattering?

Mike Wallace: Of course it is, for a reporter. It's asinine, but it's flattering.

"Hey, tell the truth," that's what it says, "Because this guy and his team (and his team is very, very important) probably has the goods on you. He probably knows a good deal of what you don't want them to know, so play straight with them. Tell the truth." I can not tell you how many people, as a result, decided to tell the truth. The Coors Brewing Company ran that ad. We were going to do a piece about the Coors Brewing Company and [their] use of lie detectors without the knowledge of some of the people that they were detecting, and their employment practices and things of that nature, browns and blacks and women and so forth. At the time, they were being boycotted by AFL-CIO because of some of these practices, and I told the PR guy from Coors Brewery, "We are going to do the story whether you like it or not, so why not cooperate and tell the story?" He finally made the decision, and the Coors brothers, the two older guys, conservatives, said, "Yeah, let's tell the story." So, we told the story. Those lines were used when we repeated the story that summer. They took out an ad saying, "The four most difficult words" or whatever, "60 Minutes is here, Mike Wallace is here." They said, "If you like the truth and good beer, watch 60 Minutes."

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Are you as tough in your personal life as you are on the air?

Mike Wallace: I'm obviously a pain in the neck to live with. But you know something, no longer. I have really become quite benign.

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This page last revised on Mar 24, 2008 13:32 EDT
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