NEW YORK – Don Hewitt's plan to give up control of 60 Minutes in 17 months has Mike Wallace wondering if he too will call it a day when his current contract expires in a year.
"I have yet another year with an option, so I'm trying to figure out what it is that I'm going to do," Wallace said yesterday in a phone interview.
Hewitt, 80, and Wallace, 84, have been with 60 Minutes since the show began in 1968. The swashbuckling Wallace once was responsible for about 35 stories a year, but recently he cut back his output to eight pieces annually for 60 Minutes and two pieces for 60 Minutes II (although he estimates he'll do about a half-dozen more than those this year).
With his diminished work load, Wallace admitted that he occasionally feels left out of the action. "I would sit here in this glass office and see people running back and forth doing stories," he said, "and I see all of the firehorses going and I say, 'What's going on out there?' and 'Why am I not [out there]?' "
Wallace, who just returned from a self-imposed six-week vacation, cited travel as the hardest part of his job. And yet, right after saying that, he mentioned that he's leaving for Australia soon to do a profile on Russell Crowe plus a story on aborigines that will take him into the rugged Australian outback.
He also has a piece on 60 Minutes this Sunday night about North Korea and another one -- a profile of Ted Turner -- next Wednesday on 60 Minutes II.
Wallace said he senses no pressure from CBS News brass to call it quits, a perception echoed by his octogenarian colleague Andy Rooney, also 84.
Rooney said he was delighted that Hewitt would be sticking around after he passes the baton to producer Jeff Fager, 48, in June 2004.
For his own part, Rooney is confident he can keep doing his own job as long as he can still write.
"I notice no diminution in my creative facilities," Rooney said. "I don't walk as well, but I seem to have as many ideas as I ever have."