We join this previously unreleased program in progress...
Wallace: So you ADMIT you crossed the road.
Chicken: Yes, of course I did.
W: On more than one occasion?
C: Well... yes.
W: In fact, many times.
W: But you still won’t tell us why?
C: I didn’t say that.
W: Okay, then why did you cross the road?
C: To get to the other side.
W: (Stunned silence. Raised eyebrow)
W: Do you mean to sit there and tell me you crossed the road to get to the other side?
C: Cluck (humiliated)
They don’t make ‘em like Mike anymore, or if they do, you don’t often see them. And for good reasons. Some of them:
Many stories today are about as significant as the chicken interview and don’t warrant a Mike Wallace style interview. And those that do need enormous preparation and research, work that many “reporters” are either unwilling or unable to do.
But the lack of Wallaces is more a problem of the interviewer than of interviewee or story.
Although they won’t admit it, most people who go into this field today don’t want to be journalists, they want to be television stars. They want the flash and fame, no matter how fleeting, of being on camera and of being recognized when they visit the local bar after the show. They don’t know from that “finding out the truth” thing.
If you don’t believe that, turn on any local newscast and watch it as long as you can stand it. If you want to see the Big Time Version, try HLN where you can view and hear the Battle of the (Ted) Baxters and Barbies. Looks that stun but voices that grate or are parodies of themselves.
Along with the empty barrels, you get the empty heads. Many of today’s “reporters” don’t know much about much. They’ve had trade school educations, and what little on the job training they get is often from other trade school educatees who also don’t know much.
No J-school can teach curiosity. That comes built in to the curious. You can learn it. But before you learn it, you have to know you need to.
Most of the time, programs like 60 Minutes are prepared at a relatively leisurely pace and collaboratively. Same with investigative work that ends up in print. Today’s news maw is so big and hungry, that there’s scarce little time to prepare even if you know you have to and know how.
Wallace and his ilk had no playbook, no trade school teachers. TV news was tabula rasa. They made it up as they went along. It took some doing, but they got it done. These days it’s easy to believe that book went up in smoke during the burning of the library at Alexandria. And that after the interview, Mike had the chicken over for dinner.
--Prosecutors tend to overcharge and that’s apparently what’s happened to hapless and possibly racist George Zimmerman in Florida where he faces a murder rap for killing young Trayvon Martin. Florida should have learned more than it seems to have about overcharging since Casey Anthony. Manslaughter would have been more effective in either case.
--Too damn many obits in this space these days. Rest in peace, Bob Allen, friend of nearly 50 years, debate sparring partner for all of them. Bob was 73 and died of respiratory problems he blamed on bad air after the Trade Center bombing and the rest of us blame on decades of unfiltered Pall Mall Reds.