Monday, May 24, 2010

The Mayhem Roundup

By David Heinzmann

I was sitting at the Tribune’s city desk the other day with my boss, working on a story I was writing, when the editor next to us hung up the phone and said, more or less, you’re not going to believe this.

Mayor Daley just told a reporter he was going to stick a gun up a reporter’s "butt" and pull the trigger. And it’s on tape.

City Hall reporters apparently huddled around their tape recorders for several minutes after the mayor’s press conference listening over and over again in a bit of disbelief. Did he really say that? Is it really possible?

So then Saturday afternoon a cop called me as I was driving home from the Niles library’s The Big Read event (where I’d appeared with fellow Outfitters Libby Hellman and Newsman Gruley, as well as friends of the Outfit, Sam Reaves, Bob Goldsborough and Luisa Buehler). You should ask whether he committed a crime, the cop said.

Certain forms of intimidation are against the law, after all, and when a person of such authority is waving a gun in the air, well…

Except it was a press conference and everybody in the room has a strong presumption the gun was unloaded and, um, it was Daley.

Anyway, this is a measure of how much the cops in this city can’t stand the mayor of this city. What’s worse, the Daley sideshow happened on the day after an off-duty Chicago police officer was murdered when four knuckleheads tried to rob him of his motorcycle at gunpoint in front of his father’s house and across the street from the park the cop has pledged to rid of gang violence. Cops believed Daley was trying to make political hay out of a police officer's death in his effort to see a gun ban in the city upheld.

It’s an absolutely awful story told amazingly here by my colleague, Annie Sweenie. By coincidence she had interviewed Thomas Wortham IV a week before about his efforts to take back Cole Park from the gangbangers encroaching from different neighborhoods.

One of the strange realities of newspaper journalism is that sometimes we do our best work writing about the most tragic circumstances.

At this point, I’m reminded of Laura’s post a few days ago about what a hell of a summer it’s going to be with all these trials—Burge (the police torturer), Blago (our most recent indicted governor) and Drew Peterson (our collective offering to the Tabloid TV gods)—unfolding.

They’re picking the Burge jury starting today and USA vs. Blagojevich is right around the corner.

When I used to work Sundays in the newsroom I’d invariably get assigned to write the “mayhem roundup,” which was a shortish story combining all of the shootings and crime that we couldn't fit into the paper on their own into one tidy story. The mayhem story was a reflection of the fact that there was just too much death and destruction in the city day after day to write a story about each tragedy.

This summer is really shaping up into a Mount Olympus of mayhem roundups. There’s just too much to pay attention to. All the trials Laura mentioned, plus a murder rate creeping back up – seems like there’s a car found with three bound, gagged and executed bodies in it every other day—plus the daily dramas of the Daley Show, plus a bunch of juicy political races, including U.S Senate and governor. (Hey, everybody, Scott Lee Cohen is back! Running for guv, and this time he’s got former Gangster Disciples honcho “Wallace Gator” Bradley on his side!)

It’s like a stimulus package for the news business. So buy a newspaper, grab a cup of coffee and a donut, and read all about it.

One postscript: last time, I blogged about heading off on my annual fishing trip in northern Wisconsin. Praise the Maker, I got no speeding tickets this time. The actual fishing was godawful, but no matter, I gained five pounds in beer and venison weight, and thoroughly enjoyed both books on tape that I checked out of the library. Michael Connelly’s The Closers on the way up, and then le Carre’s Mission Song on the way back. Actually, I’m not finished with the second one, so I’m still driving around town listening to it here and there. The narration by an actor named David Oyelowo, is really out of this world.

1 comment:

Jamie Freveletti said...

My feeling is Chicago hasn't been "working" for a long time. Both you and Laura are right, it's going to be a long, hot, deadly summer.