Monday, April 09, 2012
Fear of this man launched more than a few PR careers. Now he is gone, but the lessons of dealing with his kind of aggressive interview have entered communications casebooks. Trainers regularly talk about the Mike Wallace style interview, about 60 Minutes at the door. Wallace was a showman and he wasn't always right but he thought he was. His questioning could make even an innocent man nervous, and the twitching of his victims made for great television. In retrospect, 60 Minutes has done brilliant reporting but it has also made errors. Its story on Audi sudden acceleration in 1986 was at best unfair, at worst a lie because the program had jiggered the transmission to demonstrate sudden acceleration. Wallace's spirit of take-no-prisoners was behind that kind of zealous indictment. Wallace changed television, and he changed the PR practitioner's job. That is a testament of a kind.