Mike Wallace Signs Off

Mike Wallace died over the weekend.  He was 93 years old, and he left behind a true broadcast journalism legacy.

Wallace was synonymous with the CBS show 60 Minutes, where he was a regular contributor for more than 30 years.  His hard-hitting stories helped to make the broadcast the most popular show in the land, because watching Mike Wallace relentlessly drill down on a sweating interview subject was great television.  I’m confident that every sleazy politician, corporate executive, or head of a charity who got a phone call that Mike Wallace was doing a story and wanted an interview felt a cold chill and inward pucker, knowing the jig was up, the awful truth would be exposed, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Although people associate Wallace with his tough on-air persona, he also was a very capable journalist.  Unlike most modern broadcasters, he wasn’t all about theatrics.  His interviews and stories were usually thoroughly researched and carefully presented.  His approach followed that of radio and early TV newsmen who sourced their pieces just like print reporters did; they were simply using different technology to present the story.  At some point, broadcast “news” veered off into the land of preening personalities, titanic egos, empty suits, ambush interviews, and advocacy stories that never would have made it past an old-line editor.  Does anyone think that Katie Couric, Bill O’Reilly, Diane Sawyer, or Brian Williams — or any other modern newscaster — is comparable to Mike Wallace?

Wallace’s death not only marks the passing of a broadcast icon, it also marks the final and unfortunate end of an era.

The NCAA Tournament Expands

The NCAA has decided to expand — ever so slightly — the NCAA Basketball Tournament field, from 65 to 68 teams.  Starting next year, there will be four “play-in” games instead of just one.

I suppose this is a compromise solution, between people who wanted an 80- or 96-team field and those who would prefer to leave the Tournament the way it is.  I think making the Tournament much bigger would have been kind of silly, so I am glad the NCAA Board of Directors resisted that temptation.  As it is, I kind of scratch my head at the arguments about whether a “bubble” team from a “power conference” that couldn’t even finish above .500 in conference play should make the Tournament.  If you can’t even win a majority of the games in your conference, why should you be playing for the NCAA championship?  For that same reason, I also like the NCAA Board’s idea of the play-in games not being limited to just small-conference teams.  Why shouldn’t a “power conference” team or two have to play their way in, just like the small fry?

The linked article also notes that, in 2011, every game in the NCAA Tournament will be available for viewing, live, across the country.  The games will be broadcast by CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV.  That news will cause every sports fan to ask one question:  “What the heck is truTV, and do I have it on my basic cable?”