"60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace, who died April 7 at the age of 93, was a gift to the PR business.
I remember attending countless crisis management workshops and seminars during the early 1990s that promoted themselves as events loaded with insider information about “What to do when Mike Wallace knocks on the door.”
Image: CBS News
The sponsors of those sessions made money, but the audience was always short-changed. When one-man truth squad Wallace showed up, the jig was up. The PR workshop/seminar takeaways were either to keep your corporate nose clean or door closed when Mike came a-calling.
The no-frills newsman was also a goldmine for PR firms. They earned millions in fees pitching the fear of Wallace to skittish clients.
CBS ultimately phased-out the “ambush journalism” that was so perfected by Wallace. Executive producer Don Hewitt decided that ambushes were nothing more than “showbiz baloney.” He told Mike to “retire your trench coat.” An era passed.
In today’s 24/7 electronic communications environment, 60 Minutes has lost some of the power that it had as the only game in town.
Though CBS has ditched ambush journalism, the hypothetical question, “What do you do when Steve Kroft knocks on the door?” just doesn't have PR people running for the exits.
Kroft is good. Wallace was one-of-a-kind.
In last night's 60 Minutes tribute, Kroft remembered Wallace as the program’s “most public face,” “a true giant of television” and a correspondent with a “reporting style and interviewing technique” that influenced generations of journalists.
Morley Safer, who knew Wallace longer than anybody else on the show, called him a “restless man always chasing the next story.”
Wallace is now at rest.
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates is the only business representative on Burson-Marsteller’s study of Twitter’s ten most powerful political influencers.
That’s a signal of Corporate America’s retreat from the public discourse.
It’s unclear whether Gates’ clout comes from his reputation at Microsoft or from the good deeds of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Michael Bloomberg, Nancy Pelosi and five media players (Fox’s Bret Baier, CNN's Anderson Cooper, MSNBC/NBC's Chuck Todd and Washington Post’s Ezra Klein and Chris Cillizza) round out the list.
— Kevin McCauley