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Griller tactics in Mike Wallace Is Here

Documentary that explores the influence of legendary TV news reporter features interviews with Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy

29 May, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE
Directed by Avi Belkin
Certificate: 12a
☆☆☆☆

SWITCH on a TV news channel in the USA and you may quickly wonder what planet they are talking about.

If the way news is investigated, packaged and delivered to its audience is a reflection on the society it covers – a point legendary TV news reporter Mike Wallace said was the case – then having Fox on for 10 minutes will leave you thinking fairly dire thoughts about the state of the nation… though you may find it easier to understand how on earth Donald Trump managed to win an election.

Mike Wallace, who created the news magazine 60 Minutes, is the subject of this biographical documentary. But through telling his story – and it includes personal tragedies that shaped his approach to life – we are taken on a journey through how creating and delivering news has changed over the years.

Director Avi Belkin had reams of archive footage to trawl through. While it includes interviews with the likes of Salvador Dali and Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon and Shirley MacLaine, John F Kennedy and Kirk Douglas (the impressive names that feature could fill the rest of this column, such was his reach) we also have the behind-the-scenes Wallace.

We see how he prepared for an interview, his take on the role news plays in informing and entertaining – and his own ideas as to how and why he does the job the way he does.

Wallace was a huge influence on the current generation of shock-jock-style anchor men – something he found hard to take.

Naturally on the left and wary of power, Wallace inadvertently helped usher in the era of Fox News, of crash bang wallop interviewing style, the creep of the Op-Ed reporting into the news agenda. It means not only is it a joy to watch a journalist so skilled in his craft, but it raises important questions over the politicisation of news.

This is one of the most important issues of our times. We have watched as our newspapers have shown their partisan colours during the EU referendum, the 2019 December election, and now how those in power have handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

It does society a great disservice to have billionaire media barons feeding us their versions of the truth.

Mike Wallace knew that, and was only to happy to stick his microphone under the noses of those who would prefer to hide behind carefully crafted public personas.

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