Know it or Not, We All Need the Power he Once Had
“Serious Journalist”, a phrase that, these days, almost seems like an oxymoron. “Investigative Reporter”, where have those all gone?
According to the New York Post, over 500 daily newspapers went out of business between 1970 and 2016. More recently, between January, 2017 and April 2018, one third of the largest newspapers in the US reported layoffs. Buzzfeed and Huffington Post among other “new media” outlets reported massive layoffs in 2017, 2018 and again in February of this year.
The Huffington Post, as just one example among many, paid most writers “nothing” for years and, although they had ad revenue of tens of millions of dollars in 2018, nevertheless, failed to show a profit.
A Lost Art from a Bygone Era
For any of us in the current generation, all of this seems like old news. Yet, with all that is going on in the world, and facing down a, hopefully, longer future to endure within it, we should look to the past, even what seems like ancient history, to recapture a thread to what may have been lost, and to what a lone individual with “balls and a heart” can do. Mike Wallace was one such individual.
In 2012 we lost a man who virtually defined both “serious journalist” and “investigative reporter” and all of us, in the media and the general public, would do well to look back at who Mike Wallace was, and what he did during his 93 years. Although rightfully revered, Woodward and Bernstein’s famous story of taking on the corrupt Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal was not the only blueprint for investigative storytelling that had the informative power to move the masses.
The truth hurts, as the saying goes. And it hurts more when you are a corrupt politician or a business mogul submersed in your own greed and lust for power.
Today’s world and future generations would be well served to view “Mike Wallace is Here” as a time-capsule showing what freedom of the press and the power of the Fourth Estate can produce in a country to attempts to practice democratic principles.
Could we see a Zuckerberg or a Bezos or a Trump or Trump supporter in Congress holding up well in an interview with Mike Wallace? Is there a modern equivalent of a interviewer or reporter who at once holds the power of his popularity, as a carrot to entice an interviewee to submit to an interview, and yet wields the stick of truth and is not afraid to use it? Or do we at least still comprehend the concept?
Sadly, no, and this points to how the release of this movie should really be seen: as a clarion call to current and future generations, to educate themselves on how it is possible to have the balls to stand up to greed, power and, yes, evil.
Spider-Man? Iron Man? This film should be seen and promoted as a Super Hero movie about the real world. Mike Wallace was not a perfect person. He was known to be a tough, cantankerous workaholic up to the very end. But his more than fifty years of standing up for principles of truth and the positive power of the press the affect change, amount to a legacy of which even Iron Man could be proud.
It was Wallace, who, at his peak, on 60 minutes in the 60s and 70s, could confront a scoundrel in an interview and change waves public perception in an instant, outing the evil and the corrupt.
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Clash of Corporate Interests, and One Man Standing Up
The Oscar-winning movie “The Insider” has a sequence showing the last vestiges of this power as Wallace, played by Christopher Plummer in the film, clashes with the corporate heads of CBS who want to block his plan to air an interview with whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand, played by Russell Crowe, who gave an on-air interview where he exposed some of the tobacco industry’s darkest secrets.
Although Wallace said he hated the film, primarily as it depicted him as not standing up enough against the top brass at CBS regarding the story’s airing, it shows his unflinching, abrasive style when the truth was on the line. His career was a master class in taking risks in order to change opinions about injustices perpetrated by evil men and women, and as a result, changing minds and a small part of the world. The Wigand interview finally aired on February 4, 1996, after a protracted battle to prevent it from being shown.
The tobacco industry eventually had to pay for at least some of it’s misconduct, but in retrospect, the media was already losing it’s power to use investigation and information to affect change and expose corruption.
This all seems like ancient history, with Russian fake news hackers electing presidents, people thinking of facebook as a source of “real” information, and the idea of a journalist having the ability to fight evil, using little more than a well timed, provocative live interview, seems like science fiction.
This film “Mike Wallace is Here” may not win an Oscar, but should be seen by anyone wanting to observe a master at work, standing up to anyone and everyone that crossed his path. And how Wallace used nerve and cunning to expose the truth, often at the expense of the truly corrupt and pernicious.
“Mike Wallace is Here” is scheduled for US release on July, 26, 2019.
Summary from IMDB:
For over half a century, “60 Minutes” fearsome newsman Mike Wallace went head-to-head with the world’s most influential figures. Relying exclusively on archival footage, the film interrogates the interrogator, tracking Mike’s storied career and troubled personal life while unpacking how broadcast journalism evolved to today’s precarious tipping point.
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