1003 A Ghost Story: Myron Was No Egbert... But Close
(NEW YORK) -- You walk around the halls at 524 West 57th and you know there are ghosts behind you or beside you. They are “scary good” in the parlance of modern day television.
It’s not like they’re mysterious presences. We know who they are. They have names. Faces. Sounds. And at one time or another, they’ve all worked here... at the CBS Broadcast Center, a onetime cow barn, parts of which still recall the dairy, parts of which, beyond the lobby, are pretty dingy, or -- if not at the center itself, at its predecessors.
Egbert (Edward R.) Murrow, Fred Friendly, Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, Charles Kuralt, Jesse Zousmer, Hinda Glasser, Don Hewitt. Shirer, Sevareid, Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, the still-breathing Dan Rather. Lotta ghosts. Now joined by Myron Wallik, AKA Mike Wallace.
Wallace, like Murrow and some other Real Serious Journalists, started in show business, but later found their niches playing the parts of Dashing Foreign Correspondent or Prosecutor-in-chief.
It got so that the main Mike joke became a reality: “What are the four scariest words in the English Language? ‘Mike Wallace is here.’”
The only people who got scared were people who SHOULD have been scared. Kings, Presidents, Sheiks, Generals, Wall St. scammers, child molesters. Wallace was the best at what he did. He and Murrow and Cronkite and a bunch of others legitimized radio and later television news.
Murrow’s focus was bringing huge events down to bite size so they could be digested. Wallace’s was bringing huge people down to bite size, shelling his subjects so we could see and hear that inside, they generally were peanuts, often stale if not rotten.
Pioneering in a collaborative medium like television takes more than a stunning front man. TV news done right -- and CBS did it right most of the time in the early days -- requires the whole band. Toscanini would be little more than a hunched old guy waving a stick without the 100 or so boys in the band, along with the librarians, horn wipers, and so on.
And so while Wallace’s searching interviews were good viewing and usually best quality reporting, he was among the first to acknowledge he had a line of invisible non-ghosts behind and around him. Murrow was quick to give credit, too. When asked.
There’s something in the air in the Broadcast Center. Makes for longer than usual lives and careers. Even though Murrow was under 60 when he died, many of the others -- especially in the 60 minutes Nursing Home lived into or at least near their 90s. Hewett, Cronkite, Rooney. And Mike Wallace, who was 93.
--The question here is not “how many people does it take to change a lightbulb?” but how many hours. In one recent case, it was four by the time the simple act was finished. For more on this kind of thing, click here for Wessay #590 from August, 2009.
I’m Wes Richards. My Opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2012
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