I greatly admired Mike Wallace. Not simply for his prowess and enormous skills as interviewer and reporter or for his decades of great contributions to “60 Minutes,” but for his personal integrity and tenacity. Here was a man unafraid to reinvent and better himself after some early setbacks; he gave up the easy cash of game shows and commercials to dedicate his career to, as he once put it, “real journalism — if they’d have me.” Wallace worked hard, and he more than made good.
Years later, after battling bravely with a nervous breakdown and serious bouts with depression, he frequently spoke publicly about his problems, urging those similarly afflicted to seek help. It was Wallace’s decision to speak openly about his depression — he could easily have kept this a private matter — and he felt his story could help others.
Mike Wallace was also the only reporter I can remember watching who would not accept an evasive “non-answer” to his probing and relevant questions, whether the person was a celebrity of some accomplishment, a politician, head of state, or business tycoon. His intellect and persistence in getting to the issue at hand served him, and all of his viewers, quite well. I wish there were more Mike Wallace’s among today’s journalists but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.
We are forever indebted to him and to 60 Minutes for giving him the perfect place in which to exercise his probity and commitment to journalistic excellence.