Overnight Man

Portrait of WBBM/Chicago radio news man Joe Cummings. We follow him out on the streets getting stories, in the studio reading broadcasts, and talking about his love for Chicago.

00:13Copy video clip URL Tape opens with Joe Cummings on the scene of a fire interviewing a the fire marshall.

00:31Copy video clip URL Cummings in WBBM studio talks about the jobs he held before becoming a reporter.  “I’ve done everything in life, but being a reporter is my thing.”

01:05Copy video clip URL Titles: The Overnight Man. Back to the scene of the fire.  Cummings interviews eye-witness.

01:40Copy video clip URL Cummings shows us his radios and other monitors he uses to get news information when he’s out on the streets in his car.

02:28Copy video clip URL Cummings at “El” station at payphone calling in story about a man who died on the train and was left at the southbound Washington platform. “The man’s about 25-40, fully clothed, and uh, dead.”

03:40Copy video clip URL WBBM radio. We hear Cummings doing the report about fire over the radio.

03:55Copy video clip URL Tom Weinberg interviews Cummings about how often he goes out on the street to report versus staying in the studio. “Let’s face it, I should be out on the streets five days a week, but they need me in the studio as an anchorman…I should be out on the street getting the news, not inside the studio reading copy about what happened in Asia…I should be out telling people what’s going on in Chicago!”

04:50Copy video clip URL Cummings reads international news at the WBBM news station.

05:04Copy video clip URL Cummings driving in his car on his late-night beat talking about his love for covering Chicago. “Some guys are happy fixin’ watches, I’m happy running around Chicago telling people about the news.” He then segues into the first of what will be many speeches about his love for bubblegum. “I like bubblegum, bubblegum, bubble yum!… It seems like when you chew it, the tension, just… I ain’t a commercial for bubbleyum or whatever it is.” His running commentary includes a tirade about inadequate heat control in city apartments. “Look at that, hangin’ out the window at ten after one…You know why? They got no control over the heat. What day is it? December 17? And they’re cookin’ in there.”

07:55Copy video clip URL Cummings stops at his regular convenience store to buy coffee and bubblegum and jokes with the employees, then buys bubblegum for the whole crew.

09:04Copy video clip URL Back in the car, Cummings drives by the giant Christmas tree in downtown Chicago. Weinberg feels there are too many lights, which angers Cummings. “Whad’ya mean too many lights? It’s a Christmas tree! It’s supposed to have lights!” He then talks about his confusion about the Picasso statue in Daley Plaza. “I could never figure out what that thing was. I mean, Picasso did some pretty nice stuff, but why couldn’t he give us something we could understand?”

09:47Copy video clip URL Parking lot. Cummings goes inside the CBS building.

10:29Copy video clip URL Back in the studio, Cummings reads another news report at WBBM. When he’s off air between segments, he argues about the pronunciation of a name. Undoubtedly the best clip in the show.

11:51Copy video clip URL Cummings shows us his crime notebook for the past few weeks, astounded that there have been so many homicides, fires, and other disasters.

12:54Copy video clip URL In the alley at 151 N Morgan. 1:50Copy video clip URL AM. From the crime scene, Cummings relates the information he knows about an attack and pursues further details on the story.

14:58Copy video clip URL Later in the night. Cummings meets with Lt. John Stibich at Area 4 Homicide Center to get more details about the specifics of the shootings and record a report. Cummings and Stibich debate how the story should be reported. They record their report several times in order to get it down to the final length of 1:05, twenty-five seconds shorter than their original report. Stibich: “Joe just keeps going and going. I’ve never seen him stop.”

20:15Copy video clip URL Cummings says that he is always conflicted between two styles of reporting – reporting the gory details for the regular guy and keeping it clean for his wife (Nan Lee Cummings). “I live in two different worlds – When I’m on the street, I report for the regular guy who wants to hear the gory details…When I’m an anchorman…I talk to one person, I talk to my wife Nan…Basically I keep my sanity and my place behind that microphone because I know that Nan and I have this thing between us where she says, ‘Just pretend you’re talking to me.’”

21:34Copy video clip URL Cummings eating dinner with his wife, who is Korean. He talks about his love of Korean food and shows off his knowledge of the language.

22:24Copy video clip URL Cummings talks about his darker past. “The first day I came to Chicago I was drunk… When I first hit Chicago, I had some money in my pocket… I was on Rush Street, high-rolling for a few days, and I finally hit Skid Row, where I belonged… I was 25 and I was on skid row, and I was there because I was a drunk.” He describes the people who helped him clean up and took him to Alcoholics Anonymous, which eventually led to a commitment to religion.

23:32Copy video clip URL Cummings attends a prayer meeting with The Fellowship of Christian Police Officers.

24:24Copy video clip URL Cummings talks about the effect the prayer meetings have had on him. He says he grew up in an orphanage with nuns, and never imagined he would become a Christian. He then transitions to a discussion of how his past affects his job. He says that his hard-living past puts him in a unique position of understanding, since he’s been in the same position as many of the people he reports about.  “That’s why covering the police beat is… You feel like you’re living a story that you’re actually a part of… You feel the empathy, yet, you can never – I don’t report on that. I try to keep my feelings out of the news because you’re limited in time. I’m limited to 40 seconds on the news… you have to get the facts and the facts are cold.”

27:00Copy video clip URL Cummings at fire site again interviewing the fire marshall.

27:22Copy video clip URL Cummings advises us to never be too serious about the news. “You know my theory: never be too serious about the news. Make people laugh… Half the news you tell people about is people getting killed and churches burning in Georgia…” Cut to Cummings reporting on sports news, playing a joke on his listeners by reporting the Chicago Bears score incorrectly. End credits roll over Cummings joking about his prank. “Nobody’s listening, that’s why nobody’s calling to report it!”


1 Comment

  1. tom weinberg says:

    Joe was wonderful to be with and became dear friend until his death.

    -Tom Weinberg

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