Sunday, April 8, 2012

"A reporter with the presence of a performer" or vice versa

Before the advent of 24/7 Cable TV news, particular journalists were often considered worth paying attention to. Viewers and readers might come to trust their judgments, and so pay attention to what the journalist thought worth covering. My father was that way about Cronkite and Mike Wallace, which I realize today is like saying my father took Petroleum V. Nasby seriously. The only media talking head today with that old-style brand name loyalty is Jon Stewart, and all the obvious limitations of this kind of following or tailing are encapsulated in that fact.

But my father's view of Mike Wallace as a righter of wrongs was actually Mike Wallace's and CBS News' way of presenting the presenter, too. Wallace might be brutish to particular unpleasant characters in gray flannel suits or their directors, but he had no interest in portraying class reality in the US other than in terms of victims and crusaders.

With Wallace as the crusader.

Judging from the NYT obit I repost below, the important people whom Wallace made more important by his interest in them will be the ones to miss him. The obituarist cannot completely conceal the fact that most of Wallace's colleagues probably thought he was a egomaniacal backstabbing story thief and all-round double-dealer. But why should not journalists of capitalist enterprises reflect the values of the system within which they are incubated?

After all, CBS News for decades portrayed itself as free of corporate interference. What was there to interfere with?