Media scholars are drooling over 50 new filing cabinets in the University’s Bentley Historical Library.
They contain more than 150 linear feet of journalism history – notes, transcripts and research from legendary CBS correspondent Mike Wallace, who graduated from the University in 1939.
Wallace, 88, was one of the founders of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and has made a hefty donation of documents and notes from his work with CBS News and “60 Minutes” to the Bentley. The collection includes transcripts from the shows, notes from interviews, background research and viewer correspondence.
“This is all the paperwork,” Wallace said.
Videotapes of original program broadcasts will remain with CBS.
CBS attorneys had to greenlight the donation of the materials, but Wallace said the documents in the collection are uncensored. He said the documents would provide good insight into what happened behind the scenes in television news. The materials include outlines of stories that were dropped or never aired.
Wallace has covered several of the biggest news stories in the past decades, including an influential story on Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan euthanasia doctor, and an exclusive interview with Kofi Annan after he was the only reporter to accompany him on a mission to prevent war between Saddam Hussein and the United States in 1998. Wallace has interviewed eight U.S. presidents, many foreign heads of state and a slew of celebrities.
Wallace has donated to the Bentley in the past. He said he has been working off and on for several years to make this donation.
“These papers reconstruct the thinking that lay behind groundbreaking television journalism,” Bentley Library Director Francis Blouin said in a written statement. “His body of work is truly of historic proportions.”
Communications Prof. Anthony Collings, a former CNN correspondent, said the donation will provide an “excellent source for scholars” writing on the impact television has had on news coverage.
“This will be a great contribution to our understanding of television news and how it has evolved in the 20th and 21st centuries,” he said.
Collings also said the collection will be a resource for students interested in gaining a deeper understanding about television, and that the collection gives us “bragging rights as a university.”
University President Mary Sue Coleman echoed his comments.
“Mike Wallace has been, from my point of view, hugely influential in journalism,” she said. “The sweep of history that he has seen (is incredible).”
Wallace got his start in broadcast journalism at the University’s shortwave radio station when he was a student in the 1930s.
Since his graduation, Wallace has made several other donations to the campus community.
Wallace also serves on the board of the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows, a program that allows mid-career journalists to take a yearlong sabbatical to pursue media scholarship at the University. He has supported the program through financial contribution and through the donation of the Mike and Mary Wallace House, now the program’s home base.
Wallace is also an honorary co-chairman of the University’s Michigan Difference fundraising campaign.
“This is one of the leading universities in the world,” Wallace said. “And under the leadership of Mary Sue Coleman, I think it has made great strides.”
A seat next to legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler in the Big House on football Saturdays is one of his favorite spots on campus, but Wallace added there are many places in Ann Arbor he is fond of.
“Michigan did so very much for me in preparing my background in broadcasting,” he said.
-Jeremy Davidson contributed to this report.