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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

But The Levy Was Dry

I briefly mentioned Harlan Levy, our unforgettable assistant news director (who doubled as an on-air reporter). The tension between Levy and anchor Larry Klaas was a constant presence in the WCIX newsroom back in 1980. Levy wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box, and never was that more apparent than during the Liberty City riots of May 1980. A jury had found a group of white police officers not guilty of killing Arthur McDuffie, an unarmed black businessman. For days, racial tensions boiled over, with fires, gunshots, and looting. Through it all, Channel 6 reporters were out in the field, phoning in their eyewitness accounts of what they saw. By May 20, things were still tense, but starting to calm down. It was on that night that Harlan Levy delivered our nightly news update.

Before filing his report, Levy asked reporter Marianne Murciano what she was seeing. He also asked the same of Jill Beach, who had stepped out of the curfew area to grab a bite to eat. This would become important.

From Levy’s script, and subsequent broadcast:

(Click images to view them full-screen)

“Marianne Murciano is out in the field at this hour. A few minutes ago she reported in from 62nd Street and NW 7th Avenue, where National Guard officials say 2 vehicles were just burned off the expressway, and that a group of 25 black males have gathered near that locale.”

Oh My God! 25 black males have gathered! Everyone run for your lives!

“There are reports that at 175th Street and NW 32nd Avenue, a U-Totem was blown up.”

Huh? Ever hear of checking your sources? A U-Totem was WHAT??

Oh, but there’s more.

“Two units are responding to NW 27th Avenue, where Big Mack’s is located.”

Ha ha ha! One of our photographers mentioned “Big Mack’s”, which is what he called McDonald’s. Harlan never asked for any clarification, and went ahead and put the phrase “Big Mack’s” on the air!

And the pièce de résistance:

“Jill Beach was at Coral Way and 27th Avenue moments ago. She reports no activity there.”

Of course not! Coral Way and 27th Avenue was nowhere near the curfew area. It was east of Coral Gables! As previously mentioned, Jill was at that location… eating dinner!
That, in a nutshell, was our assistant news director. It’s no surprise why Larry Klaas so often would go around saying “I’ve had it with Levy”. It’s no surprise that in a few months, Larry would have his job (in addition to anchoring the news). It’s no surprise that The Ten O’Clock News would have to fight even harder for viewers, for credibility, for respectability.

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