A Media "Macaca?"

As touched upon briefly yesterday, Chicago TV reporter Amy Jacobson was caught on videotape at the home of a man whose wife hasn't been seen in two months – a story she's been covering. In a two-piece bathing suit. On her day off. With her kids. While the fellow was in his backyard swimming pool.

That's all we know for sure. The rest – the context, the explanation, etc. – is completely up for grabs, courtesy of an anonymous videographer who passed along the footage to a rival station. (In the interest of disclosure, the rival station is a CBS affiliate.) But the speculation, controversy and fallout have already cost her her 10-year job at the station.

According to today's pun-laden Chicago Tribune report:

If Jacobson was hoping to make a big journalistic splash, she instead suffered the self-inflicted sting of a belly flop as her bid to ingratiate herself with a potential source made its own headlines, including this one, heralding her exit from Channel 5.
In a conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times, Jacobson tried to explain the circumstances that led to the videotape:
Jacobson said she was called on her day off by Craig Stebic's sister, Jill, who invited her to the southwest suburban Plainfield home to discuss the case. Jacobson said she was on her way to go swimming at the East Bank Club with her two sons, ages 3 and 2, so she took them to Stebic's house instead.

"My kids were in the car with me," Jacobson said. "It was a way for me to do my work and have fun with my kids. I never get to see them. I'm always working." So they all went swimming there, along with several other mothers and children.

And then Jacobson utters what should become the maxim of everybody in the public eye:
"If a tape didn't exist, I know I would still have my job."
Well, yeah, Amy. Ask Trent Lott about that. Or Michael Richards. Or George Allen. Or Alec Baldwin. Each time we hear about one of these stories, we think 'now that's the precautionary tale that will drive the point home.' But then another one pops up a month later, and we're reminded all over again that we need to watch our backs a little more.

The truth is, we're living in a new mediated reality. And it's not just that way for politicians or performers; it's that way for all of us. I remember hearing – in a homily or a stump speech, they're tough to differentiate – that "character is how you behave when nobody is looking." Well, character has a new sidekick: web video. We used to be concerned that "Big Brother" -- George Orwell's unblinking eye of government surveillance -- was going to be watching our every move, but it turns out that we have seen Big Brother, and he is … us.

So remember, dear readers: The microphone is always on. There is always someobody filming. Be on your best behavior. Suddenly, that bunker at an undisclosed location is beginning to sound better and better.