#905: The Live Remote

March 23rd, 2018

“That TV news truck still outside?” Gene asked, looking up from his computer.

“Yeah,” I said, tossing my coat on the chair next to my desk. “Do you know what that’s about?”

“Guy got stabbed in the neck. I think it happened by Mother Hubbard’s because I was walking in and that’s the only part of the sidewalk that got washed.”

I hot-watered my instant coffee in the breakroom, then walked back to Gene’s desk and told him The Story.

A few minutes later, coffee left warm on my desk.

The woman in the passenger seat of the news truck was beautiful and bored. The beauty was intentional, both a coiffed and made-up result of her profession and the pre-existing genetic condition that gave her a shot at the job. The boredom was an unintended side effect of waiting for her moments on TV to talk about the killing.

She flicked through a phone and kept glancing at the dashboard clock. I liked her immediately and almost felt bad when I made the “Please roll down your window” hand-crank motion to get the startled newswoman’s attention.

Almost.

“Hi,” I said. “Sorry.”

In a stumbling, high-pitched nervous breakdown of a voice, pausing for endless apologies and reassurances, I told her communities don’t like it when TV crews do live remotes. She recited back that they don’t like doing them. I told her I was sorry she had to be the one to hear this. She nodded sympathetically, waiting for my words.

I leaned over slightly, wrung my hands and told her The Story.

Much earlier.

Years earlier.

So much earlier I was still watching TV news from a Bucktown rat’s nest with only three channels on the rabbit ears. As I lazed on a couch I haven’t owned in a decade, keeping the TV going for some background noise as I didn’t flick through a phone because phones didn’t do that then, a familiar street flashed on the screen.

It was a live remote, one of the “Send a 20-something pretty pretty to a crime scene to say the same stuff they’d say in the studio” features that glut up the 22 minutes of murder porn that compose local TV news. I’d seen a hundred thousand stand-ups like it, would see a hundred thousand more.

She was talking about a horrific sexual assault. A woman was closing up a shop for the day, a man asked at the last minute if he could use the bathroom before they closed. Terrible.

It’s a journalistic tenet that, unless relevant to the story, you don’t identify rape victims. And, sure, they didn’t say the name of the woman as they stood outside of and shone cameras into her place of employment. But I knew that shop, was a frequent-enough visitor to know the staff by face if not name. And I knew only two women worked there. One was the owner. They would have said “owner,” so I knew in a moment who had been assaulted.

They had outed a rape victim in the name of a live remote.

The TV newswoman waiting to tell the local morning newswatchers of the greater Chicago area about the neck stabbing didn’t get it. She didn’t get it and I expressed it so, so poorly.

She didn’t get the anger I felt seeing a sexual assault victim’s identity shat out into the world in order to get slightly better background visuals. She didn’t understand that people don’t like our shops and bars shown as killing fields because putting a beautiful woman on a public walkway looks more Action Jackson than having the same woman recite the same words in a studio. She didn’t get how we in the community feel when they pop in to show suburbanites our neighbors’ blood, then skitter away, not caring or thinking about the human beings they just exposed.

She nodded, and her eyes got suitably wide when I said the word “rape.” But she nodded in commiseration, as if she felt the same way.

As if she were the one this was being done to, not the one doing it.

She was a nice woman, tried to make this stumbling, high pitched fool of a man feel better. She told me the victim this time was just passing through, wasn’t a friend or workplace neighbor.

“Probably,” she added.

I told her it didn’t matter. We went back to our lives, neither the wiser for the conversation.

More irresponsible TV news

More pooling blood on a sidewalk

A man hand-building an Englewood art gallery

A woman who smells magic

A century-old flag shop and the most famous rear end in Chicago

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You are currently reading #905: The Live Remote by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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