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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

It is hard to believe that reporter Mike Wallace suffered from suicidal depression

By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Jul 21, 2012 in Lifestyle
This reporter saw the recent biography on broadcast journalist Mike Wallace at the local library this week and check it out. "Mike Wallace - A Life " by Peter Rader is an interesting read, especially for journalists. Yet, I find it difficult to fathom that Wallace suffered from suicidal depression. It seems to me from reading this biography that some of his depression was linked to low self-esteem. This to me is a mystery. Mike Wallace is a legend. He is also larger than life when you see him on so many of those "60 Minutes" interviews. Fearless, determined, outspoken, these are not the qualities of someone crippled with thoughts of suicidal depression. Or, are they?
While I am far from being able to analyze like a trained psychiatrist, I do think there is so much our current medical understanding of depression and suicide does not know.
Wallace did make public his struggle with depression. Yet I still find it difficult to understand, especially a man in his position. Could it be the extreme highs and then lows? Winning awards and accolades at one high point and then suffering the loss of a beloved son, perhaps that might be one of the keys to understanding why he suffered so much.
There is mention that he suffered from low-self esteem because he did not like the way he looked. Yet, even in his 70's and onward he always looked distinguished, attractive, professional, and confident.
I was fascinated to find out that while he aspired to be in some form of journalism or broadcasting early on, he also was an actor, did commercials and was no stranger to hard work.
Apart from his personal life, I found the accounts of his experiences in the field interesting. Especially so of his war correspondent work. What drives a person to want to be in one of the most dangerous situations to report on what is happening there. I notice that some of the best reporters are war correspondents.
This is not to say that I want to follow in any of their footsteps on such a venture, just to become a good reporter. I think there is plenty of work in journalism out there that makes a journalist vulnerable enough without having to risk one's life reporting from a war zone.
Yet, flaws aside, there is something just a bit admirable about a person who pursues the facts that gets to the truth. Wallace seems to have had those qualities. But I also think that so much of our news is fed to us too much like entertainment. Wallace, like Barbara Walters and others, are often more like a celebrity than the news itself.
This I think can be a detriment to a reporter, especially if they are sincerely just trying to get the news out there. An approachable person is always a welcome ear to talk to. Yet talking to a reporter who has to get TV ratings, that's something else.
Perhaps the pressure is also another thing that added to his depression? But from what the author says in an interview with Columbia Journalism Review, Wallace did not join the "60 Minutes" cast until that time in his life at age 47 when he lost his son.
I sense this will not be the definitive biography on Wallace, there will be more as time goes on. And, Wallace is not alone. There are so many outstanding, "towering" journalists of his generation.

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