TV Reporter Dies from Exposure to Cold in ExposÉ of Cold Front
"B-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! Ooh, boy, it sure is c-c-c-c-cold out here! Back to you, Allison," were some of the harrowing last words of eager, young TV reporter Damien Cruise, 25, of WGN Chicago during his brave and final report from the cold front currently moving through the upper Midwest.
Always dedicated to bringing what he called "in-your-face" local news into viewers' homes, the TV reporter died of exposure, despite the urging of his camera crew to flee the scene.
"There was nothing we could do to get him to leave, nothing," said technician Miguel Garcia. "Though we'll miss him, he'll always have our respect for bringing the kind of hard-hitting news that the people need to see. I suppose his philosophy was, 'If I'm not out here in the streets telling the people how cold it is, then who will?'"
Garcia and other members of the crew struggled to hold back tears as they recounted the moment that Cruise expired while standing erect and in mid-sentence as he nearly finished reporting the air temperature, wind chill and other atmospheric factors.
"I'll always regret taking that five minute break in the van while Damien was out there in the shit," lamented Garcia. "It should have been me!"
Other moving testaments to Cruise's short life came from the WGN studio staff, including news anchor Allison Payne.
"He embodied the finest qualities of modern journalism -- i.e., making up stories when there are none to be found," said Payne. "We'll miss him the most when the first bluebird of spring 2009 is sighted, or when the division III cheerleading finals are happening... it just won't be the same around here without him."
Posthumous accolades from other networks began pouring in as tragic news of the TV reporter's death became public. All expressed sadness at the premature end of an ambitious career that, given just a little more time, could have extended beyond coverage of community potlucks, high school drama clubs and nursing home dances.
"Given some more experience, [Cruise] would have been on the front lines of a war zone," said supervisor Rick Stanton. "Unfortunately, he never had the chance to apply the same kind of in-depth reporting and analysis to armed conflict and political corruption the way he really delved into the Northern Illinois Debate Team finals."
The last 10 years have been particularly dangerous for journalists, says media professor Blake Cox of DePaul University, due to what he calls the public's increasingly insatiable appetite for breaking news.
"That time when all those journalists were killed in that hotel in Baghdad [by friendly fire in 2003's invasion of Iraq] should have been the worst of it," said Cox, "but it only looks to be the tip of the iceberg. Reporters are resorting to all kinds of drastic measures to get a story, from embedding themselves with the Taliban to sticking their heads under the wheels of moving buses to expose the danger of tripping and falling in front of a bus."
Cox added that he wished more journalists in Cruise's position could "get to the top a little easier, where they'd find topics that don't need as much investigating, such as political pay-to-play scandals and medical helicopter pilots who drink on the job."