Death of a journalist (5×8 – 4/9/12)

Evaluating Mike Wallace, the story of Rosalie Wahl, for the love of the game, a tornado’s connections (continued), and who owns your ID?

The Monday Morning Rouser:


The death of Mike Wallace over the weekend marks the death of the kind of investigative journalism that Wallace pioneered, the Los Angeles Times writes today.

Not only are there fewer grillers such as Wallace around, but the business executives and politicians who might be a target of tough reporting can also more adeptly avoid the harsh glare these days. There was a time when a person came across as suspicious or cowardly if he or she failed to appear on “60 Minutes” or — worse yet — tried to scurry away from Wallace and his intruding camera crew. But now, people can use Twitter or Facebook to get their message out or turn to a sympathetic news outlet, where the host will lob only softball questions.

People have been weaned off substantive news to the point where they don’t seem to much care about it anymore. “60 Minutes” is a shell of its former self in which yesterday’s journalists are spending their time chasing a shortage of truffles.

But maybe that’s a natural evolution of Wallace’s approach to journalism.

When Wallace went off the rails, he went pretty far off. Consider this 1967 CBS News documentary on homosexuality.

“The next time some old straight person waxes nostalgically about the good old days, I’m going to ask them what they did to stop gay people from being treated like subhumans?” the online magazine,, says today. ” And if they say they didn’t do anything, I’m going to ask them why not? And do they even feel the slightest bit guilty? Mike Wallace may have been a good newsman. But he was no hero…”

“Together, Wallace and Hewitt proved the news could be fun. And edgy. Entertaining. Illuminating. And very, very profitable,” NPR’s David Folkenflick writes.

Wallace gets the last word in today’s New York Times. This 22-minute segment runs 21 minutes longer than what 60 Minutes could give Wallace last night.


Earlier this year, the Minnesota Historical Society awarded a $76,000 Historical & Cultural Grant to the Washington County Historical Society to complete a documentary about the life of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Wahl. The film was to be titled “She Who Would Giants Fight.”

It must nearly be ready. Over the weekend, the film’s trailer appeared on YouTube. It’s now known as “Giant Fighter.”


keith_baseball.jpg It’s opening day for the Twins at home, and Dale Connelly is paying tribute to the amateur baseball players “who love the game but don’t have what it takes to play professionally.” Like Tom Keith.

At Sibley High School he was a star center fielder. Not very fearsome a presence at the plate, he made up for it on the base paths. In one pivotal game he took four bases, propelling his team into the state tournament.

I’m not surprised to learn that Tom was a talented and successful thief. Speed is only part of base stealing. Another crucial factor is the ability to observe the pitcher closely, understand his motion and find an opening. Tom was very, very good at picking up the odd cues and funny quirks of other people. He was an excellent mimic, and could play yourself back to you, capturing your way of speaking, your posture, your words and even the gaps between words.


Last month, I told you about the interesting case of Marta Righthouse, whose iconic picture in the aftermath of a tornado in Marysville, Indiana led perfect strangers to pitch in to get a picture of her deceased husband back to her.

It’s still happening. I heard last week from Nancy Feds of Goshen, Ohio, northwest of Cincinnati. Her husband has mowed the lawn several times already but when he was mowing the grass on Thursday, he happened across this picture.


Sure enough, it’s the late Bob Righthouse. The Righthouse clan was smart enough to write names on the back of pictures. Mrs. Feds searched Google for Mr. Righthouse’s name and, again, came up with the original News Cut post. The picture is now heading back to Marysville.


In all of the debate over whether voters in Minnesota should show a photo ID in order to vote, we haven’t really asked, “are we showing an ID? Or are we submitting an ID?”

Check out this picture on last week’s story about the question heading to the November ballot. It was taken by MPR’s Jeffrey Thompson when a system was being tested at the February caucus in Stillwater.

Listener William Pitt of Woodbury noticed it:

One aspect of the voter ID law that isn’t being questioned or covered is if and why our driver’s licenses would be scanned as part of the voter ID program. The story that I saw showed driver’s licenses being scanned. Those magnetic stips contain personally identifiable information. See MN law, 609.527 IDENTITY THEFT. Its inevitable that one of those lap tops will be lost or stolen – after all they lose ballots. Once scanned onto a laptop of course they have have your name, address, date of birth, height and weight. The computer will note when your license was scanned (so we have another government database that tracks where you were on a certain date and time. We need to start objecting to the government tracking us. I will vote against the amendment because it does not protect us from having our ID actually scanned and recorded.

There’s not a lot on the Minnesota magnetic stripe, but there are a few things — the driver’s license number, being one — not now kept by the Secretary of State:

State or Province


Last Name

First Name

Middle Name

Home Address

Expiration Date

Birth date

Driver’s License Number




Hair Color

Eye Color

Some of this is information that got people riled up when the topic was the Census.

Bonus I: “If you want to move to the South or East, you can get a job right away. If you want to stay in the Midwest, you’ll have to wait.” That’s the way the teaching business is around here right now. Just Angela Sather, a substitute teacher profiled in today’s Fargo Forum.

At this point, I’d like to apologize to all the substitute teachers I had in the ’60s. We treated them badly. Especially the nice ones.

Bonus II: Gasoline prices may have peaked, the Boston Globe headlines. Have I ever told you why it’s a bad idea to use the word “may” in a headline?


Baseball has been known for a century and a half as America’s national pastime, but there is debate over whether it still deserves the title. Today’s Question: What do you think is the national pastime?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The future of military spending.

Second hour: Who is the world’s greatest living novelist?

Third hour: Young girls experiencing puberty at an earlier age.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): On this day in 1939, Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial. Hear about Eleanor Roosevelt’s role in that watershed event, and about some of the earliest civil rights initiatives of the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: A new collection of essays on the most polarizing team in sports, the Yankees.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Mexican composers are working with Minnesota choir students, hoping to foster a better understanding of Mexican music and culture. MPR’s Chris Roberts will have the story.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Mike Wallace was an important pioneer, and the fact that investigative tv news has mostly become infotainment is a sign of the decay of our culture towards a preference for bread and circuses.

    On the other hand, it’s nice that we can view the documentary on homosexuality as quaint, and I would argue that that indicates that things can get better if we work at it and do the right thing.