My Dachshund and I were cruising up West End Avenue yesterday when we spotted a crowd on the next block. People were clogging the sidewalk, and trucks equipped with satellite gear were lining the streets. I wondered what a media circus was doing in the neighborhood.
We advanced toward the mob, propelled by my curiosity and the dog’s inbred urge to chase down badgers. I buttonholed a man cradling a video recorder.
“What’s the fuss about?” I asked.
“Schneiderman lives here,” he said.
No other questions were necessary. Every local news outlet had dispatched a crew for a perp watch outside the apartment house which Eric Schneiderman calls home. Schneiderman is the newly disgraced and resigned New York Attorney General, brought down Monday by four outspoken victims of his alleged domestic violence.
Schneiderman had made a perfunctory denial of the charges, claiming that the sex, however twisted, was consensual. His naturally bemused resting face underscored that he could not believe his own words.
Within a few hours after his statement, Schneiderman walked out of public service. The calculus was clear. There would be no redemption. His physical attacks were allegedly fueled by drunken rage and threats. It didn’t take much to make him walk the plank; it was consensual.
All this had been decided before Tuesday morning. Nevertheless, tan army of professional voyeurs, equipped with cams, video cams and microphones, wirelessly connected to their 21st Century food trucks, was now camping out on an otherwise quiet street.
“What’s the point? He’s already quit and is under investigation. There’s no story here. ‘No comment’ is the most you’ll get,” I said.
Nothing quickened the pulse of a local news director like cornering a wounded pol walking in and out of his home, and broadcasting it every twenty minutes.
“Hey, it’s our job. They assigned us here,” said one guy.
“Wouldn’t it be better to cover something that isn’t over yet?”
“They pay us. We need the money.”
The gang and gear and trucks were still there when we took our afternoon walk.
“Did you get anything?” I asked.
“No, he hasn’t gone out,” said one crew member.
“Or come in,” said another. The impression being that they’d been on this stretch of pavement all day and had nothing to show for it. So much for the glamour of TV news.
This grotesquerie drives ratings, which in turn drive sales and profit. The wall between news and entertainment is long collapsed, time out of mind.