Former 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, winner of some 20 Emmy Awards, decried the state of broadcast journalism during a speech at Fordham University on Nov. 6.
“What’s happened, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s all tabloid and infotainment,” he told a gathering of students and faculty at the McGinley Center on the Rose Hill campus about news on television. “It used to be a race to the top and, to a certain degree, it is today a race to the bottom…. News on television isn’t what it used to be.”
Wallace was a guest of Beth Knobel, Ph.D., the Emmy-winning former Moscow bureau chief for CBS News and professor of communication and media studies at Fordham. Wallace recounted some of the highlights from his days in radio in New York City, his early years on television and his work with what was in 1968 a fledgling newsmagazine program known as 60 Minutes. Wallace retired from as a regular correspondent in 2006.
“It was an adventure,” Wallace said of 60 Minutes in the early years. “Nothing like this had ever been done before, and so there was nothing you could do that was wrong. As a result of which, you tried and if you failed, you failed and if you succeeded, then you kept going. All of sudden, we defined television journalism at that time.”
As to his trademark tough questioning of officials, Wallace said that it came from a desire to simply ask the questions viewers wanted asked.
“So if a [government official or corporate executive]said something six months ago that they might be ashamed of today,” Wallace said, “what a joy it was to be able to make that interviewee squirm.”