Now hold on as I start this…my Dad is still quite healthy, thank you, and will be reading this at some point, so don’t go thinking this is some morose remembrance. It’s more…a celebration of memory with the advantage of a bit of age behind it. I do so hate admitting that I now have the advantage of age.
I used to hate 60 Minutes. Yes, the US News program, not the allotment of time…come on bear with me.
When I was a kid, I learned very early on that I should never, ever, EVER expect to watch a TV show at 7pm on Sunday evenings (well at least until I could afford my own TV…but by then…) That was the show that my Dad quietly demanded to watch each week, no matter what else was on…didn’t matter if it was the Oscar’s or some movie running long from the Disney special that would so often play on Sat. evenings. It was 60 Minutes, for 60 Minutes (followed up by Murder She Wrote for a long long time…)
When I was a kid, I hated it. It was news. It was this thing called politics from a country I didn’t even live in. It was old guys just talking at the camera while sitting before cheesy graphic cards. What did I care about it…and god 60 Minutes was soooooooooooo long…Dad do we HAVE to watch this again??
Yes, watch it we did, and over time I began to appreciate it. The show, despite being American centered built certain sensibilities, fascinations and habits into me that I never realized until…well how old am I now? It gave me a love of politics, news, shaped opinions of things I really didn’t know enough about and made me seek out more. Chief amongst those experiences though, were two reporters for 60 Minutes that always came to mind. One was Ed Bradley, who passed on a few years ago, and the other was Mike Wallace, who passed away yesterday at the grand age of 93. Wallace is someone who instantly comes to mind in so many unique ways.
When I finally decided to go to journalism school in the early 90’s, I had grand ambitions to be the next Mike Wallace, to be in those war zones and be the reporter in the field asking the hard questions. I got to know the cadence and voice and tones of many TV news people…from Tom Gibney, the long time CFTO news at 6 anchor, to Mike Wallace. There was a way they spoke, a rhythm to how they did things, whether reading from a teleprompter, or interviewing a subject, both willing and unwilling. (I can’t tell you how many good marks I got on TV News scripts I wrote in school where I was would just read them in my head as if Tom Gibney was reading them).
Wallace though, he was something else. Even when I was young and hated 60 Minutes, his interviews would grab my attention. The way his face would twist when he got an answer that you just knew was evasive, if not an outright lie. The attack that would come back with that tone of “give me a break”. Why would anyone who wasn’t just doing a fluff piece WANT to be interviewed by him…I never understood it. Over time though, I knew I wanted to be THAT.
As it would turn out, I realized very early on that I would never be a great reporter. I was too nice, too soft on the questions and never gained that hard edge. A good debater maybe…but would I be able to cut my teeth as a reporter by going to the home of someone who’s kid was just killed to ask hard questions about how it happened? Nope…I was far better as an editor…until my love of all things tech and geek took over and sent me down a different path.
No matter the path though, I always had a soft spot for Mike Wallace and his work. Not solely because of how good a reporter he was, how important or interesting the stories were.
No, it was mostly because of my Dad. It was because over time, I started to enjoy those 60 Minutes, when I would sit down on the couch with my father and watch the news. Sometimes we’d end up discussing a piece, other times I’d listen to him “harumph” about how stupid something was (and yes Dad…you do HARUMPH). I link Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, and my Dad together. It brings back good memories, dreams of futures past, and stories told. So I will celebrate the passing of a remarkable newsman in a way I’m sure most won’t.
Thanks for forcing me to sit for 60 Minutes, Dad.