It’s -5 degrees, the windchill makes it -21 degrees and WLS-Channel 7 broadcast reporter Diane Pathieu just might have struck gold in her quest to quell the shivers.
Her piece de resistance? Battery operated socks.
“The first time I wore them was for the Mundelein story [Wednesday,]” says Pathieu, a self-proclaimed purchaser of any and all clothing or devices that can keep her warm during her 4 a.m. Chicago winter live shots. “There are four AA batteries in each sock, which has wiring down to the toes. I turn them on high and they get warm. I also have heat-generating gloves.”
The 13-year veteran pairs her socks with five layers of clothing, including hunting socks and thermal underwear overlaid with a sweater and a shirt and then overlaid with fleece that is followed up by a parka. Or two. And pocket warmers.
“You have to try everything,” she says. “I wear [several] pairs of socks, runner’s socks and hunter’s socks. Then I insert the toe warmers and the electric sock. Sometimes, like yesterday, it really works.”
Normally, broadcast journalism is quite competitive. But when it comes to cold-weather dressing, Pathieu says the reporters definitely trade secrets. WGN-Channel 9’s Nancy Loo, for example, overheard someone asking Pathieu about her socks. But Loo’s secret weapon is her “ninja suit.”
“Have you heard of that before? Snowboarders and skiers wear it and it’s awesome,” says Loo, returning to Chicago from a live shot in Indiana, where she was covering Thursday’s deadly I-94 traffic pileup near Michigan City. She was out there for four hours Friday while the wind made the temperature feel like -20 degrees or so. “That’s the first layer. Then turtleneck sweater, sweater, snow pants and a parka. Toe warmers. It was so cold today that my earphone cord froze into a shape.”
Then there’s the issue of “being presentable.” A full face of — usually waterproof — makeup is required. Hair has to be right and tight. And even though some reporters interviewed for this story couldn’t be quoted, many said that their bosses prefer a hatless head. Those same reporters said that when it’s 30 degrees, they’ll shed a layer. But when it’s zero? Please.
Some concerned viewers even call in or post on Facebook, asking why the reporters are outside even as they tell viewers to stay home.
“You have to be presentable, but c’mon, when it’s 30 below zero, how presentable can I be? I’m out here and I shouldn’t be,” says Rob Elgas, who anchors the 4:30 p.m. WMAQ-Channel 5 News and reports for other newscasts. “I’ve learned you have to layer up. You can always take it off. I wear three layers of pants and Gore-tex winter boots. But the real tough guys and girls are the photographers, because they’re the ones always outside. The reporters can trick you and sneak into the truck and stay warm. You don’t see us doing that. The photographer doesn’t have that luxury.”
WBBM-Channel 2’s Dorothy Tucker wears military-grade long underwear and several sets of gloves and hats. Cute isn’t top priority.
“If it’s good enough for the military, it’s something I need,” she says. “I have an extra jacket in my backpack because I’m covering the Michigan City [I-94] crash today. I wear a ski cap under my hat, and a black hat on top of the ski hat and then a cute-looking hat on top of that. I seriously do not like to be cold. [In these situations] I am so far from cute. So far.”