News Editor Gets Blasted After Video of Sick Way He Treated Ice Cream Man Goes Viral
Many years ago, CBS newsman Mike Wallace perfected what was known as the “ambush interview,” where he would would track down a subject who didn’t want to talk to him on the sidewalk or as they were getting into their car and pepper them with a slew of questions.
Years later, Wallace would tell CNN’s Howard Kurtz that he and “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt “came to the conclusion that there was more heat than light that came out of that. We weren’t getting a lot of information from those so-called ambushes. So we quit … I have no doubt that what we started has become a plague.”
A metaphorical plague during a literal one is pretty meta stuff, but it’s something that we should have seen coming. After all, people were bound to break the rules in the social distancing gospel, and the ambush interview lives on nowhere if not on local news telecasts.
Reporters for WBBM-TV in Chicago, however, found out this doesn’t work quite as well when you treat an ice cream guy the same way Mike Wallace used to treat tobacco executives.
The segment, which involved assignment desk editor Greg Kelly squaring off against an ice cream truck guy in the village of Hoffman Estates who was selling his wares in a converted school bus, combined the ambush interview with the kind of local TV reporting which takes the familiar tonality of: “Tonight, why your next drink of water … may be your last!“
The segment began with those familiar chimes of the ice cream truck — but in the time of coronavirus, the next time you hear them may be your last!
“That iconic music screams summer, and we all scream for ice cream,” the voiceover said, before warning that thanks to the pandemic, “getting close to the ice cream man could mean getting something else.”
Flash to the confrontation with the driver: “Yet here is Mr. Freeze – not his name – in his truck of treats, unmasked, ungloved, taking cash for cones,” he says.
Here’s the segment, tweeted out by investigative reporter Brad Edwards with similarly subtle copy: “No gloves? No Mask? No problem. This ice cream man is not only ignoring COVID-19 protocol, but he’s breaking the law. Such trucks are forbidden Hoffman Estates. The Village Manager says if you see him, call 9-1-1. “
No gloves? No Mask? No problem. This ice cream man is not only ignoring COVID-19 protocol, but he’s breaking the law. Such trucks are forbidden Hoffman Estates. The Village Manager says if you see him, call 9-1-1. @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/ebQftLpCUD
— Brad Edwards (@tvbrad) May 8, 2020
This confrontation between Kelly — described as a “dad, biker and journalist” but who came off in the segment sounding an awful lot like whatever the male version of a Karen is — and Mr. Freeze involved Kelly asking him variations on the question, “Do you think it’s good to be doing this with the stay-at-home order?”
Mr. Freeze, for his part, responded with, “Why are you trying to take ice cream out of the hands of children?”
After a bit of this high-minded dialogue on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, this ice cream truck driver’s ability to earn a living and whether or not the parents of these children should be able to decide whether they can get ice cream for themselves — or just a bit of bickering for the camera, one or the other — Mr. Freeze (not his real name, just in case you hadn’t gotten the message) drove off.
The end of the segment involved Edwards talking about how these sorts of ice cream trucks aren’t allowed in Hoffman Estates and that, if you see Mr. Freeze, you should call 911.
One of the more glorious aspects of the social media age is that the shamer can often become the shamed. You can see where this is going:
He’s trying to make an honest living. Call 911? What the hell is wrong with you?
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) May 8, 2020
“Hello, police? Yeah, it’s Brad. I seen the ice cream man.” pic.twitter.com/lgdiapW32V
— The Partyman (@PartymanRandy) May 8, 2020
53 people killed in Chicago the month of April and you hunt ice cream man.
— Kambree (@KamVTV) May 8, 2020
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) May 8, 2020
How many journalists show up at the presser without mask or gloves? Do you try to destroy their lives, too?
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) May 8, 2020
This is a story Brian Stelter would do thinking he’s saving the world.
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) May 8, 2020
He sure showed that elderly ice cream man!
— JoeyJoeJoeJrShabadoo (@SideshowJon36) May 8, 2020
What is wrong with you?
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) May 8, 2020
Edwards’ tweet wasn’t just “ratioed” — defined as when the comments vastly outnumber the likes or retweets on Twitter, indicating a wildly unpopular post. The totals, as of Saturday morning, were over 14,000 comments compared to 2,500 likes and retweets.
And why not? This is journalism in the time of COVID. A singular ice cream truck on a street in a suburb is tracked down by a news assignment editor — his actions apparently justified by Brad Edwards because he was a dad and a journalist — and harassed on camera.
It’s important to stress the harassment aspect here.
Does this show up on the news without the “Mr. Freeze” video? Does it show up without endlessly shaming an ice cream guy for not wearing a mask or gloves as he works, both in the video and in studio? Is there any reason for a single ice cream truck going around a suburban community to end up on the news if it weren’t for the snark and two-minutes hate against this guy?
He wasn’t wearing gloves or a mask and was selling ice cream. Heaven forfend.
By the way, it’s almost certain these children were out there with the permission of their parents. Are we to assume they can no longer make decisions about what their children can and can’t do? Is that the kind of life we live now?
And for that matter, was this driver engaging in illegal behavior? Yes, Edwards said:
Ice cream trucks aren’t allowed in Hoffman Estates.
— Brad Edwards (@tvbrad) May 8, 2020
Local journalism at work.
Mike Wallace is gone, having passed on in 2012 at the age of 93. His metaphorical plague is still with us. In the social media age, at least, we can push back.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.