I was in the CNN green room in Washington Sunday when I heard about the death of pioneering CBS newsman Mike Wallace at 93 Sunday.
Being a live show, host Howie Kurtz and the CNN team scrapped the planned opening and went with a segment on Wallace that I was part of. I will post that video here as soon as CNN makes it available.
UPDATE (2:25 p.m): The video from CNN's "Reliable Sources" has been added at end of this post.
But here's what I think matters most about Wallace, who I was lucky enough to interview over the years.
First, he is the archetype for watchdog journalism on TV. He and his legendary executive producer Don Hewitt, adapted that important role to TV with the advent of "60 Minutes"-- and no one ever has or will do it better.
Watchdog journalism is a crucial element of a press that serves democracy, and Wallace personified that in his role on the CBS newsmagazine, which has become the most successful and honored show in the history of television.
Don't judge watchdog TV journalism by the downsized and debased versions you now see exploited by second-rate ntework newsmagazines like NBC's "Dateline" and every local news operation in every city in America that has some version of an I-team.
Here's the piece I wrote in 2006 for the Sun when Wallace retired. It has wise assessments from the colleagues who knew him best at CBS News, including Hewitt who died in 2009. They both were titans of TV news.
Mike Wallace, a pioneering figure of American broadcasting whose on-air persona at 60 Minutes came to represent the press as watchdog of those in power, said yesterday that he will retire as a regular correspondent at the end of the current TV season in May.
CBS announced that Wallace, who will turn 88 on May 9, will remain affiliated with the most successful program in the history of network television as correspondent emeritus, though it was vague as to what his duties will be. Wallace was one of two founding correspondents for 60 Minutes, TV's first prime-time newsmagazine, in 1968.