Studying journalism in college, I came to believe in striving to be “objective.” I say “striving” because I don’t believe it’s possible to write a completely objective story. Writers write because of their desire to communicate ideas, and those ideas have been accumulated from living a life. And while living that life, view points are formed. The professionalism of a feature article writer comes in keeping all personal opinions locked down – as best as one can at least.
But all of that certainly shouldn’t have mattered when I took an assignment for FOH Magazine, a professional trade magazine for audio engineers working in live events (as opposed to the recording studio). It was simply to be of the inaugural – and honestly, we wouldn’t typically cover something like that but in a year of slim-to-none big concerts …
So I took the assignment prepared to ask what mics were used and get some background on the FOH engineer, etc. Pretty standard stuff. But the first thing I learned is the crew was on the grounds working and most of the gear was all set up on January 6th – the day of the insurrection. The story suddenly became a lot hotter, and turned out to be probably one of the ten best pieces of my career.
The audio team was 90 percent installed, and the mob maliciously destroyed everything they could get their hands on. The main speakers were hanging up too high to reach, and one member of the audio company’s team stayed behind and guarded the mixing boards in the tent; otherwise everything else was cut, stolen, beaten up, and otherwise ruined beyond repair. And this wasn’t the government’s property – not sure if they cared. From the article:
The damage included 14 new JBL AC28 compact dual-8” point source speakers. “One of the ongoing challenges is that the people closest to the swearing-in have trouble hearing,” Baltzell says. Purchased specifically for the inauguration, the AC28s were distributed around the platform and mounted on railings, and Trump supporters ripped the grilles off and punctured the cones. They tore the wires out of the back. Threw paint on them. They got a few loose, and there’s images of them lying amongst the other debris, and a video of one being thrown at the Capitol. Some were armed with wire cutters used to cut cables. Ethernet cables were sliced, and circuit breakers were snapped off at the exact spot that could do the most damage. Some wheeled cases away. Others preferred to knock them over and tear the cabling out of the equipment in the racks.
Since it was a trade article for a B2B magazine, there were a few things I left out, and one thing I cut after the fact. The audio company owner, who I greatly admire and have known for at least eight years, spoke about their being a “joy among the people that day” of Biden’s swearing in. He added that in doing this event four years earlier, and noting that there were figurative “dark clouds” and many of people working it had a sense of dread. I decided to leave that out, even though it was a direct quote.
One of the crew members spoke about running from the lower level to the high ground when the masses moved to attack the building. Standing where Joe Biden who take his oath 14 days later, from his standpoint, he saw the cops stand down – “step to the side and let them through, like someone told them to do that.” I sent the article to my editor with that in, and literally within five minutes I ran across this story in Politico about a second officer committing suicide, and another 65 sustained documented injuries during the riot. I went back and cut that line as while I believed the crew member was stating what he saw, clearly the story was more complicated and I did not want to disrespect those officers that stood up to these criminals.
Another thing left on the cutting room floor: I asked the owner who is paying for the millions of dollars gear vandalized beyond repair – insurance or the government (me and you)? “That remains to be seen.” In a just and fair world, these rioters who on their way to overturn a free and fair election, randomly destroyed lives and property.