Media: The Attack Dog
THE WHITE PICKUP truck with CITY OF PHILADELPHIA stenciled on the back zoomed along on West River Drive, its driver heading from where he was supposed to be this April afternoon (at work) to where he wasn’t supposed to be (his house). When Fox 29 reporter Jeff Cole, producer Gary Scurka and cameraman John Campbell saw it go by, they pulled their unmarked news SUV out from a riverside parking area and, camera ready, began their pursuit. They were about to tape the climactic scene in any TV investigative report — the on-camera ambush.
Cole and his team had done secret video surveillance for two weeks, following a tip that Fairmount Park supervisor Thomas Nace wasn’t putting in all the hours he’d been getting paid for. They’d obtained Nace’s handwritten time sheets, and yep, for the period in which they’d spied on his comings and goings, it looked like Nace was off the job about half the time.
In the van, Cole tested on Scurka and Campbell his opening line for the final act, which is called “the confront.” (“Mr. Nace, what are your work hours?”) The footage they’d gather here wouldn’t be critical to the story. Weeks earlier, they’d nailed their money shot — Nace lofting a case of Coors from a beer distributor into the back of the city vehicle on his way home, early.
Now was just time for some good TV.
Nace pulled up the long driveway next to his house in Roxborough. Scurka parked out front, and Cole and Campbell jumped out, joined by photographer Mark LaValla, who arrived in a second vehicle. For the scene to work, they needed to make sure Nace didn’t have time to get inside the house.
“Mr. Nace! I’m Jeff Cole from Fox TV.”
“Yeah … ”
“Wanna talk to you a minute if I could … ” And Cole rushes up and hands the guy a business card as the camera pushes in on Cole’s catch of the day, a burly blond guy with a goatee and a black tank top. He’s not happy and doesn’t look chatty.
“Could you get off my property with the camera?” Nace says.
“Can I ask you one question as I get off the property … what are your work hours?”
“Uh … none of your business?”
“But we see ya home here a lot during the week,” Cole persists, enunciating in that way he does, which a sensitive person might consider provocative or annoying. “Twenty hours out of the workweek as we’ve been lookin’ at you.”
“Will you please get off my property? Get off my property.”
“Okay. Can you come down to the street? We’ll talk to you down here? Can you tell me anything about your work hours as a supervisor for the Fairmount Park Commission?”
“Can I ask you one other question before you run in, and we’ll get off your property?”
“GET OFF MY PROPERTY!”
“Sir, we will get off.”
“This is private property! Get off of here!”