The most provocative star in television news is dreaming of spinning off. Mike Wallace -- hard-edge, confrontational interviewer who makes "60 Minutes" a must for millions of Americans Sunday evenings on CBS -- is preparing a new series of specials which sound like spinoffs from "60 Minutes." And he hopes they'll turn into a regularly scheduled series in prime time.
It will probably be called "The Mike Wallace Profiles" and, according to Mr. Wallace, will begin airing sometime in October.
Will it affect his participation on "60 Minutes?" I asked him the other day.
"Let's face it," he said. "There will come a time when I won't want to get on that many airplanes to do 25 new pieces a year on '60 Minutes,' and maybe this will prove to be an alternative. But meantime I will not allow it to affect my work on '60 Minutes.'"
"60 Minutes," regularly among the top 10 shows of the week, often the No. 1 show, is already in the midst of turmoil as the last of the Dan Rather segments is used up and Ed Bradley takes over the Rather spot.
Will "profiles" be very much like "Biography," a series that has been repeated time and time again in syndication over the past 20 years?
"It will be an elaboration of that show, which used only stock footage with my narration. This new show will consist of real exploration of character, personal investigation. I have already completed the first segment on Jean Seberg. I talked to many people who knew her in Iowa, California, Europe.She was an extraordinarily beautiful youngster when she was chosen to play Joan of Arc, and I had forgotten that she turned out to be a stunning mature woman."
Will Mike Wallace use his normal confrontation tactics which have won him a great following on '60 Minutes' and which he started around 25 years ago on a local New York show titled 'Nightbeat," and later on ABC in "The Mike Wallace Interviewers?'"
"It wasn't necessary in the case of Jean Seberg, since everybody was so forthcoming.
"The other segment of the premiere show --show -- will probably be about Robert Kennedy. We will focus on a specific line in his life . . . talk to people who actually worked in the field with him."
Will confrontation be used in this segment?
"I don't know. If it is necessary, yes. I don't think there is anything wrong with drama in a news program, nothing wrong with confrontation of a hostile interviewee. On the contrary, I think it makes for interesting, provocative, useful journalism.
How does Mike Wallace react to the increasing criticism of "60 Minutes" on points of accuracy and methods?
"We put institutions under scrutiny -- they have a right to put us under scrutiny. But every critical article about us focuses on just about the same half dozen pieces -- and, remember, we've done over 1,000.Mostly they don't suggest that the pieces themselves were inaccurate, they say there were certain inaccuracies of excesses in part of them. We acknowledge that in the case of one or two they got away from us and we have corrected those prominently and promptly. You know that the mechanics of interviewing makes it impossible to keep everything in the order you asked the questions, etc. As long as you do an honorable job and fairly represent what the person has to say.. . ."
What does CBS newsman Wallace have to say about his CBS news associate Dan Rather in his new Evening News spot?
"I like Dan Rather so much. He is such a decent, hardworking man. After all , he has paid his dues as a newsman. One of the things that made [Walter] Cronkite and [John] Chancellor so believable is that they have covered every place they reported on -- the White House, Vietnam, etc. The same is true of Dan. I am sure he will make it."