Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Nine days and three dead bodies later, I would wish I’d never met Jack O’Lies.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. www.wikipedia.com___________________________________________________________________

   From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

   Jack O’Lies (born August 4,1965) is a crime reporter at the Washingtonian, a daily newspaper in Seattle,Washington.

   He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism in 1998 for his coverage of his wife’s murder and the subsequent trial of her killer, the Westgate Serial Killer. He came in second to Gary Cohn and Will Englund of The Baltimore Sun for their series on the international shipbreaking industry, which revealed the dangers posed to workers and the environment when discarded ships are dismantled.

Saturday, March 31, 9:19 a.m.

Jack endured much in his role of supervisor of Leo Krakowski, erstwhile intern at the Washingtonian newspaper.

His primary grievances:

  • Leo was always late to work.
  • Leo always left early.
  • Leo was never at his desk, instead spending hours hustling the flunkies in HR for a job or trying to get a piece of ass down in the all female Arts and Entertainment newsroom.
  • Leo fact-checked nothing. He preferred to check his email, Facebook, and “I don’t know what-all.”
  • Leo was a car thief who could not be trusted to move a fellow journalist’s vehicle a mere two blocks from one parking lot to another.
  • Leo was a terrible writer.

“That was the worst thing about him,” Jack rails. “He couldn’t write a coherent sentence to save his life.”

The bathroom door flies open.

“Yeah? Really?” Leo barks.

Cue the melodramatic music.

Saturday, March 31, 4:43 p.m.

The cops arrive three hours later. In the meantime, I get to know Christopher so well.

First of all, he’s quite the nineteen-year-old gentleman. As we sit side-by-side on the chilly front steps of Jack O’Lies’ Ballard home, Christopher insists on draping his coat over my shivering frame. Not at all what I expect from the late night phone pervert Lucy described.

Second of all, he’s Catholic.

Third through seventeenth, he wants to be a priest more than anything. Or maybe a monk. But there are temptations! They include—oh hell, you know what they include. I tune him out as he recites, “Beer and girls and video games and pornography…”

Eighteenth, he kind of likes Lucy. But not that way.

Nineteenth through thirty-first, he’s terrified that he won’t get into the seminary of his choice. He has doubts about his Latin. He needs to find a tutor. But there’s no one in Seattle who speaks fluent Latin and is willing to take less than $50 an hour for private lessons. How will he ever ascend to the rank of archbishop—his fondest dream!—and work in Vatican City if his Latin is sub par? “Even their ATM machines are in Latin,” he moans.

Vatican ATM in Latin

Thirty-second, he kind of likes Lucy…that way.

Oh God, he’s going to confess the lascivious details of last night’s phone sex with Lucy! I squirm away from him. Ew…what if he was wearing this very coat at the time?

“You should open your mind to other career paths,” I ramble, to keep him from telling me all about it. “Take me, for example. When I was your age, I thought I was going to become a surgeon. Instead, I talk to interesting people and tell their stories. I’ve interviewed the Duchess of York, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Carrie Fisher—you know, Princess Leia from “Star Wars,” oh, and the guy who created “CSI.” Man, he talked fast! Man, I love that show!

Christopher gapes at me. I have shocked him with my worldly ways.

No, he’s gaping in awe.

“No way! You talked to Princess Leia? What was she like? Was she still hot?” he says.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia

At this very moment, the cops roll up: one whole cop car containing one whole cop.

Our statements are taken. The cop’s face registers no interest whatsoever…until I mention that Lucy’s father is a reporter covering the Lake Washington Killer case. Like some kind of human search engine that has received the right keyword, the cop’s eyes become alert. She jabbers a few coded phrases into her radio, then makes us give our statements all over again.

A second cop car rolls up. Then another. Then the watch commander. Christopher and I tell our tales again and again. Each time Christopher has to describe how he slurred, “I like your boobs, Lucy” over the phone last night, he looks a little more suicidal.

The King County Sheriff’s deputy arrives. Then the K-9 unit. Then a Washington State Trooper, for some reason. I’ve never understood the division of labor among the police forces.

Then the media arrives. How ironic—the tables are turned and the reporter becomes the reported! This is what I get for silently mocking interviewees when they stammer and give nonsensical quotes peppered with, “Uh, um, like, y’know.”

I stammer into the cameras and microphones. I say, “Uh, um, like, y’know.” I give the worst interview ever.

Serves me right.

Thursday, March 22, 10:12 a.m.

The crime scene is on the western shore of Lake Washington, where the sand meets rain-churned mud. I park between a King County Sheriff’s car and a City of Seattle Police car. Washington State Patrol is on scene too, sandwiched in between a pair of TV news vans. I’ve never understood the division of labor among the various cop agencies. I’m not that kind of journalist.

I don’t get out of the car. Chaos reigns as cops and marauding ducks fight to defend their strongholds between the mucky bank, the gently lapping gray water, and the yellow Police Line Do Not Cross tape that separates them. Through my windshield, I can see a major media convergence zone just outside the yellow tape. I’ve been here once before, under far more mundane yet equally duck- and reporter-ridden circumstances. I ought to feel right at home. Except for that whole dead body found floating on the water thing.

When my press club buddy, John Whiteclay, and I set up our quasi-professional job shadowing scheme a few weeks ago, I did not expect to observe him on the job at a murder scene. I figured I’d hang out with him in the hallowed halls of the Washingtonian, drinking a cappuccino from the lobby coffee cart and listening to the police scanners for a couple hours. Then I’d scoot back north where I belong and add “On the job training in crime reporting” to my resume. Though he willingly went along with the job shadow idea when I proposed it, I doubt John will ever avail himself of the opportunity to join me at my place of employment. I’ve described my average workday too vividly.

I pull out my cell phone, scanning the journalistic crowd for John’s unmistakable waist-length black braid and perpetual red Che Guevara t-shirt.

Che Guevara t-shirt

I get out of the car and begin to walk toward the other reporters. I dial John’s cell number.

“Whiteclay,” he answers in an irritable voice.

“Hey, it’s Katherine. I’m here in the parking lot. Where are you?”

“Huh,” he says. “The Chief usurped when the AP wire started buzzing about it being a suspected serial killer instead of the usual hobo floater. God, I hate him!”

“So…where are you?” I say.

“Work. The jerk took the intern with him—the intern!—and left me manning the damned scanners for City of Everett PD and Harbor Patrol. Harbor Patrol!”

Since the day we met, he has been complaining about his boss: an old school editor who rose up from John’s own position as lowly crime reporter. John habitually calls him “The Chief.” He only let his real name slip once during a particularly baroque lament on his favorite topic, “Why I hate my job.” Seated next to him at the bar where the press club meets each month, I Googled the name.

“Whoa!” I said. “Why is your editor hitting over and over with the words ‘serial killer?’”

Annoyed at being halted in mid-rant, John waved his hand dismissively.

“Yeah, his wife got involved or hurt or something when he was covering the Green River Killer or whatever about a hundred decades ago. Meanwhile, I’m on traffic court duty all day while the damned intern gets to photograph the massage parlor raid on Highway 99. Prostitutes for blocks, and I’m listening to ‘Eighty dollar fine and it won’t go on your driving record’ repeated ad infinitum. God, I hate my job.”

Ever since that night, I’ve wanted to meet John’s editor. I was actually hoping to run into him between the coffee cart and the police scanners today.

“Anyway, I’m stuck here,” John is saying on my cell phone, as I pick my way through the chaos of muddy riverbank, wandering cops, eager media, and hostile ducks. “Want to come keep me company? It’s boring as hell here.”

“Oh, well, I’m already here and all. I think I’ll check it out for a bit,” I say, hanging up on him absentmindedly.

I’m unsteady in the muck that constitutes the floor of the crime scene. I can barely navigate the slurry of sand mixed with mud, which is ringed by yellow tape. I pause and peer across the barrier.

I have no idea what John’s editor looks like.

I spy an idle daily print journalist, identifiable by her jeans, sensible shoes, and out of style but carefully pressed suit jacket. She’s leaning against an ambulance, smoking and poking at her iPhone with a short-nailed thumb.

“Excuse me? You don’t happen to know if Jack O’Lies from the Washingtonian is around here somewhere?” I say.

She points her cigarette at an open space beyond the yellow police tape. “Over there with the coroner. Can’t believe Muhammad actually came to the mountain for once,” she says.

The cigarette indicates a black guy in his fifties who is talking with a white guy. The white guy looks to be in his forties, with graying hair hacked into a super-short crew cut. He sports a couple days’ worth of beard growth that looks sexy on movie stars in their twenties but doesn’t work for professional men over the age of thirty. The black guy is wearing a dark blue windbreaker loudly emblazoned “King County Coroner’s Office.”

I take a deep breath and contemplate the forbidding yellow police line tape that separates us. I glance around. There’s a gawky kid in a trench coat standing next to the white guy. His trench coat screams “I’m a reporter!” more blatantly than mine. He’s clearly an intern. I duck under the tape barricade and approach.

Before I can reach the trio, the white guy smacks the coroner on the shoulder with his reporter’s notebook (good-naturedly), jerks his head at the kid (brusquely), and begins to walk toward me (blindly).

“Excuse me? Excuse me,” I say as he bears down on me. “Jack O’Lies? Jack?”

He halts. He turns to look at me. His pale blue eyes register nothing at all.

“Hi,” I say. “Sorry to bother you while you’re working. I was wondering if you have a minute? I was hoping to talk to you about, um…”

How to say it? Your wife’s kidnapping twelve years ago? What it’s like to be married to a serial killer survivor? The worst thing you and your family ever went through?

“Uh…” I fumble. “Could I set up a brief interview with you, possibly?”

“We aren’t hiring,” he replies curtly.

“No, no, I’m not—”

Before I can finish, he jerks his head at the trench coat kid and resumes his march past me. I watch them go: Jack O’Lies striding quickly through the squelching mud, his intern trotting dutifully behind him.

I feel abandoned.