Mike Wallace was a fiercely competitive but big-hearted newsman who loved his work, two professors said yesterday, as word got out that the 93-year-old TV icon had passed on.
Wallace, a globe-trotting Brookline High School graduate, died Saturday night in a Connecticut nursing home, after a 68-year career as a reporter that only ended in 2008 -- most of that time as part of the ground-breaking CBS investigative news magazine "60 Minutes."
"He loved to stir the pot, and he was competitive even in his own shop," said Mimi Edmunds, a former "60 Minutes" producer who worked with Wallace and now teaches journalism at Emerson College. "But there was a really soft side to Mike, too. He didn't just do hard-hitting investigative pieces. He had a soft spot for stories with compassion."
Industry insiders said his passing leaves a big void in journalism.
"He was one of the standard-bearers of a generation in journalism," said Ted Gup, who got to know Wallace while Gup was working as a Washington Post reporter. Gup also now teaches at Emerson. "His work was detailed, well reported and, I think, uncompromising.
"In this age of waste and abuse and hyperpartisanship, people like Mike are needed."
The newsman's perseverance became a trademark and a skill, he told the Herald in 1979.
"When things come late, you're grateful for the opportunities," Wallace said. "You understand other people's shortcomings, and in a perverse way, you understand the Achilles' heels of others."
Wallace became famous for his tough interviews with Watergate figures John Ehrlichman, G. Gordon Liddy and H.R. Haldeman -- in later years scoring key interviews with Jack Kevorkian, Roger Clemens and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- and for his ambush style of springing damning evidence on his interview subjects. Coors Beer, after Wallace cleared the company of allegations of racism, famously used his name in an ad that said, "The Four Most Dreaded Words in the English Language: Mike Wallace Is Here."
Myron "Mike" Wallace was born to Russian immigrant parents in Brookline in 1918. He decided to become a reporter at a young age, but didn't land at "60 Minutes" until he was 50 years old. He married four times, battled often-crippling depression and spent his vacations playing tennis on Martha's Vineyard.
But mostly, he worked.
"Mike's door was always open for a story idea," said Edmunds, the former "60 Minutes" producer. "He was very demanding, and you had to deliver.
"But he'd praise you, too, particularly when our stories beat someone else out."
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