Friday, April 13, 2012

On the Passing of Mike Wallace > Ridgefield Press 04/12/12

I cried on Sunday morning.

Mike Wallace had died overnight and I sat watching his obit prepared by Morley Safer some time ago. Morley asked Mike if he planned on retiring so he could sit back and contemplate. Mike's response: contemplate what? What is there to contemplate about? It was vintage Mike.

But I did contemplate Mike's passing and what it meant to me.

Did I know Mike? Sure. Had I had worked with him? Yes. Sad as his passing was, it also represented the passing of a very important part in my life.

For the last decade or so it has been like watching a rose lose its petals one by one and there are very, very few petals left.

Already gone were Harry (Reasoner), Don (Hewitt), Ed (Bradley), Richard Threlkeld , Walter (Cronkite), Richard C. Hotlett, Les (Midgley), Fred Friendly, Dick (Salant), Zeke (Segal), Ralph (Paskman), Bud (Benjamin), Charles Collingwood, Andy (Rooney), Charlie (Kuralt), Eric Sevaraid and others.

Some were personal friends, others were hallway colleagues but all were seasoned journalists during a wondrous time who had taught me much about professional integrity and truths.

As I watched Mike's obit, I recalled Morley, the young corespondent with the Canadian passport, who had returned from Vietnam with a story titled "The Burning of the Village of Cam Ne". Today almost 50 years later, I can still see the opening frames: the closeup of a U.S. soldier's hand, holding a lit Zippo lighter, touching the edge of a thatched hut, setting it ablaze to deny refuge to the Vietcong and their sympathizers.

I contemplated whether Morley saw himself too far behind Mike. And whether Mike was the last rose petal, representing that special time when I had the privilege to work amongst this greatest generation of colorful, talented, dedicated group of journalists.

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