|THIS LATE FLASH HAS JUST BEEN HANDED TO US: On February 17th, during a prime ratings week, Mort Crim left the country. It was announced that Crim was on “medical leave of absence.” Station officials said he was sick. Inside sources said he was sick, all right—sick of station officials.
We now join our story, already in progress.
3:28 PM SOON IT WILL BE DARK, and at night, when all the tungsten stars are strung out in the firmament of Tinsel Town, and the lights of the 40-watt successes beam red across the Delaware to all the ships at sea, then it will be cold and soon it will be dark and then morning will follow by a probability of 50 percent, depending on the isobars in Iowa.
It is Thursday, the 23rd of January, 1974, a day not unlike all other days, a day that will be filled with turning points and colored ketchup. And here on Independence Mall East, at what used to be known as 5th and Market, in a brown brick building decorated with long black chains, there is a meeting in the Eyewitness Newsroom, the newsroom of the news team that has been rated number one in Philadelphia for a whole three months in a row now. The notice for the meeting is written in pencil on the back of a sheet of white paper Scotch-taped to the door.
It is a small room, the newsroom, much too small and instantly obsolete for a building so new. It was supposed to be bigger. But then the city planners came along and looked at the plans and said no, no, the lobby for this pri son has to be much bigger to fit in all the ladies in the pillbox hats who’ve come to see Mike Douglas. There had to be a cut made somewhere. And so, to make the lobby larger, they cut the newsroom in half.
There is the news director’s office, which is mostly glass, and there are five rows of desktops, separated by five partitions into ten cubicles with 20 chairs. There are small, semi-private offices in back of them, small enough that three people can’t stand in them at once and not face the danger of a sexual encounter. They have no doors, just these tacky blue and white plastic accordion closures they got on sale at Two Guys. Jessica Savitch and Marciarose and Al Meltzer live here.
In a room off to the side, a room with a real door, is the shared office of Vince Leonard and Mort Crim. It used to be the film editing room. Before that it was headquarters for the staff of the Marciarose Show, which no longer exists.
Most of the field reporters are in from their assignments by now. They’ve all stopped by to talk to Don Shoultz, a man with a green shirt and a polyester tie who produces the 5:30 news, and then to Jim Boyer, a man with a white shirt and a silk tie, who produces the 6 o’clock. Both of them are working on their rundown sheets, trying to figure out all the news that fits. The newsroom is alive with a calm panic now. Faceless voices are yelling out of a squawk box that connects to the editing room upstairs. The art department needs some description for the chroma-key slides.
“Anybody ever been to the Oxford Valley Mall?” Carl Ward, who produces the 11 o’clock news, yells. “What kind of place is it? We’ve got a murder there.” An intern says that she has shopped there once and that it is a pretty decent place. The art treatment will reflect that research.
“Who’s handling the mall murder?” a voice from editing asks.
“It’s me,” Robin Mackintosh says, “Captain Suburbs. That and five other stories.” He sits down at his typewriter and starts talking to himself.
Jessica Savitch has just blown in from an interview with Alice Cooper for a rock and roll series she’s doing. Before she sits down to write her half of Newswatch 5:30, she stands in front of Marciarose’s mirror and brushes her hair and touches up her makeup. “I don’t understand it,” she says, frowning at the blonde in the mirror. “All this work and that’s still not Faye Dunaway in there.” Read the rest of this entry »