News Reporting

Video: Overnight Man

Level: High school
Subject: Media studies, Chicago

Date: 1978
Duration: 29 minutes
This documentary is a portrait of WBBM news radio overnight crime reporter Joe Cummings. When he arrived in Chicago, he was an alcoholic without a high school degree and an address on Skid Row, but Cummings found his calling on the gritty streets of Chicago. This street-smart wisecracker fearlessly chased the stories on the police radio to become one of Chicago’s most memorable characters. Acclaimed documentarian Tom Weinberg spent several weeks of overnights with this colorful character as he tracks down police officers, firefighters, and late night witnesses to get the scoop on the city he loved. It was originally broadcast on WTTW/Chicago in 1978.

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Teaching Tools

Discussion questions

  1. News doesn’t just happen in the daytime. How did the 24-hour news cycle come about?
  2. Can a crime/war reporter become burned out or desensitized to violence? How does one keep her/his sanity?
  3. How has technology affected the way a reporter like Joe Cummings would report the news?
  4. What pieces of information do reporters investigate and report about a crime? Are there other pieces of information you think are important to telling the full story?


  1. Interview someone about something that happened in your neighborhood. Take notes or record the interview and then discuss the results of interviews in class as a group.

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