Investigative reporters rarely engender sympathy, but you have to feel sorry for XETV’s John Matte - who suffered a televised beat-down that has to be viewed repeatedly to be fully absorbed. Matte and his photog were following up on a fraud report when the wife of the man they were investigating showed up with accented threats and a volatile bottle of water. What followed is an interlude worthy of an SNL sketch, but the laughter ends abruptly when hubby shows up. Accused con-man Sam Suleiman didn't bring any H20 but he did pack his can of whup-ass. With a sucker punch and an awkward grapple, Suleiman commits wanton on-camera assault, only to be hemmed in by a beefy bystander. From there the footage grows ever more surreal, with good wife Rosa berating the lens while her esteemed husband rolls around in the grass with two other grown men. If it weren't so pathetically stupid, it'd be kinda funny.
But I swear, I'm not laughing. No one deserves to be physically abused, even guys with wireless microphones and good hair. In this case, the reporter-turned punching bag is also an attorney. Methinks he'll fare okay in a court of law. But the resulting footage has sparked quite the debate in newsrooms and message boards. When to 'film' and when to help? The first thing news managers will tell you to do if you're assaulted is to keep rolling. That way there's irrefutable evidence of just what when down before the authorities arrive. It's wise enough advice, but I still think I'd have a hard time stepping back for a wide shot if my partner of the day were suddenly being pummelled. (Well, there was that one guy I wouldn't mind seeing take a punch. Or three.) Hey, I'm no gladiator, but I am a Southern man who grew up with brothers. Staying out of the fray ain't exactly in my DNA.
Luckily, the kind of stories I tend to cover don't feature alot of fisticuffs. Let's just say you won't find too many enraged combatants down at band camp. Until the triangle players show up, that is. Those guys are vicious!