If you are a “FOX News Sunday’’ fan, you surely recognize anchor Chris Wallace. Wallace is celebrating his 10th anniversary at FOX News Sunday, and in a few weeks, his 50th anniversary in the broadcast business. The son of broadcast icon Mike Wallace, and stepson of former CBS news president Bill Leonard, Wallace grew up in Connecticut before beginning a journalism career that now spans decades. In his office in Washington D.C., the 66-year-old Wallace reflected on his career, his growing up years in Connecticut and journalism in general as he Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: Do you find you are asking yourself ‘where did the time go?’ What are your proudest moments so far and what do you wish you had done differently so far in your career?
A: I am absolutely asking ‘where did the time go?’ I have had a lot of great jobs in local news and national news over the years and this is the best job I ever had. I have to say I did once want to play center field for the Boston Red Sox but listen, I am one of those people who pinch myself every day and can’t believe how fortunate I have been. I have been to Calcutta with mother Theresa and Red Square with Ronald Reagan. I have had a front row seat at history. I would choose it again. It has flown by and that means it’s been a good job. As far as what I am proudest of, I think we have been straight shooters on our program. I think it is a show that is tough but fair. We don’t push an agenda.
Q: Any concerns over the credibility of the news now that you can go to a blog or online for a news fix versus turning on television or radio or reading a paper?
A: I do have some concerns. Like many people I have mixed feelings about some of the news and how it is delivered. I grew up in a time when there were three major networks and newspapers. Those stations weren’t happy when cable news crashed the party. There are good things to be said about blogs and online news sites and while some are very good, some are not and that puts the obligation on the consumer. Before I say something on FOX News I have to go through an editorial process. I just can’t say anything I want. With some of these websites and blogs, it’s a guy sitting in his pajamas in his parents’ basement. Again, the obligation on choosing a source is on the consumer.
Q: You have been referred to as “TV news royalty” because you are the son and stepson of broadcast icons. Do you feel that grand?
A: I don’t but I am very proud of my background and my dad and stepfather. They made me what I am but they were not stage door fathers. As a kid with my stepfather, I remember going with my mother to my stepfather’s show “Eye on New York.” He had Eleanor Roosevelt as a guest and we had to take her back to her apartment in Manhattan. She was telling stories about her husband and Winston Churchill during WW II. I was a kid but I remember thinking then what an extraordinary opportunity for me. Then when I was 13 or 14 my father invited be to go to his CBS Morning News to meet Malcolm X. When I was 16, I got my first job there as an intern for Walter Cronkite.
Q; What was the most emotionally difficult story you ever had to deliver?
A: You develop a thick skin as a reporter. As a local reporter, you go to a fire or a murder and you stick a mic into someone’s face and say ‘how does it feel.’ That is tough. But to a certain degree it is happening to someone else and while it is awkward, it doesn’t usually tear you apart. I did an on-air tribute to my dad a week after he died and that was tough because it was happening to me. I was trying not to bawl like a baby.
Q: I know you were much closer to your stepfather than your father, but what if anything did you learn from your dad about doing your job?
A: Professional standards. My father never thought he was particularly good looking or a particularly good writer. Knowing that, he made it his priority to outwork everyone else and I think that is in my DNA. Prepare better questions, do more research, be better prepared is how to approach the job.
Q: What do you see as the biggest stories coming down the pike in 2014?
A: Clearly Obamacare. I don’t know. I’m open-minded. The roll-out was disastrous and I guess we will see over the course of the next year what the situation will be. Whatever happens, it is going to have a huge impact on the 2014 elections. If it is successful the Democrats will wrap themselves up in it and conversely, if it turns out to be mess, the Republicans will say “we told you so.”
Q: How will you celebrate your anniversary on the show Sunday?
A: We are going to have a fond look back on the high and low points of the past 10 years. As far as cake, I don’t know unless someone is surprising me.
Q: Tell me about your Connecticut connection.
A: I went to high school at Hotchkiss in Lakeville. They were beautiful years in Connecticut and a great experience.
Q: What was the naughtiest thing you ever did while in high school?
A: I was a distrustingly good boy. When I went to school you could get kicked out if you smoked a cigarette or had a drink.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: I won’t go the Full Monty but some of the TV shows I watch I would be mortified if anyone, other than my immediate family, knew what they are.
FOX News Sunday airs at 9AM/ET on FOX CT and repeats at 2pm/ET and 6pm/ET on FOX News Channel.