Whew. Today should have been a rather quiet morning at WGTD. I was recording a forty-minute interview with Gateway Technical College president Bryan Albrecht – and after that a thirty-minute interview with the interview of a fun book of mathematical puzzles called “Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities”- during which I would also be playing classical CDs for the Music Potpourri. Nothing to write home about -or to blog about. But then came the moment when News Director Dave McGrath walked into master control with the news that Gary Becker had been arrested. Even as the words “wow, you’re kidding” were coming out of my mouth, my mind was racing for those first few moments – “Gary Becker? I know that name very well. Doesn’t the mayor of Racine have a name sort of like that?” And I suddenly realized why Dave had delivered the news with such a thunderstruck expresion on his face. It WAS the mayor of Racine we were talking about – and this was one of those gigantic stories that make any journalist grateful to be part of the business even as you regret the story itself and what it represents in terms of professional ruin and personal suffering- especially the suffering of the innocent people inevitably caught in the undertow of such a story.
There were exactly two of us in the studio at that moment, and once I had put Dave on the air (right after the morning show finished) to announce the news to our listeners, he was off to Racine’s City Hall in order to be in place for the 10:00 am news conference that had just been called. . . and it was up to me to watch the wires for further updates to pass on to our listeners. And as if to reinforce the adage that when it rains it pours, we also had a very surprising snowstorm on our hands and massive accidents on the interstate that had closed down the southbound lanes and were causing other headaches; I had to deliver that information as well to our listeners. And it all went well, except at 9:35, when our listeners heard me say “recrapping a major story from Racine. . . “
The oddest assignment I ended up having this morning came after general manager Dave Cole got to the studios. (He is an amazing bundle of energy and tightly controlled calm in these kind of situations – exactly what you want when a very big story has just broken.) We were anxious to hear the news conference for ourselves – but our guy there was not going to have the means to give us any sort of direct feed. (He would be coming back with the whole thing recorded for playback and excerpt.) So I was charged with getting a brand new digital radio receiver hooked up, in the hopes that we would be able to pick up one of the other radio stations carrying the news conference live – just so we could hear it and get to work on the story. (Until we got this new digital radio, which wasn’t yet out of the carton, the only thing we could really listen to at the studio was our own station and no other.) So here I am – probably the least savvy WGTD employee in technical matters, taking this radio out of the box, frantically trying to figure out the power cord (which was a weird two-part affair) – attaching the FM and AM antennae, and getting this thing up and running. . . which I actually managed to do, although I can scarcely believe it. And once Dave Cole was there to tune in the specific station in question (which shall remain nameless) my job was to hold the end of the AM antennae up as high as possible to give us the best possible signal. . . not exactly the kind of thing for which one requires a masters degree, but important all the same. And there I remained until the news conference was over. (What is especially funny about that is that originally Dave Cole was going to have me head up to Racine City Hall with Dave and dispatch me to get reaction from various city hall employees on the news, which would have been an interesting and challenging assignment. Eventually we decided against that, so my duties during the news conference consisted solely of the aforementioned antenna-holding. So much for the glory of journalism.)
Anyway, the story is that the mayor of Racine was arrested last night outside of Brookfield Square in Milwaukee. The charges: (deep breath) enticement, possession of child pornography, exposing a child to harmful materials, attempted second degree sexual assault of a child, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, and misconduct in public office. And as strangely exhilarating as it was to be hard at work covering this incredible story, it was hard to shake loose the sense of bewilderment and astonishment which tends to leave you rooted in one place, utterly paralyzed and mumbling “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.” But if anything is completely believable by now, it is that there is nothing unbelievable anymore, especially when it comes to our elected officials.
pictured above: This is what eventually jury-rigged for our digital radio – a means by which the AM antenna could be elevated without me standing there holding it up to the window. Just call me WGTD’s answer to Macgiver.