Rush to be first to report Van Dyke beating is what a veteran reporter lives for

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Jason Van Dyke and wife Tiffany leave the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Sept. 26. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times


There are good days … and bad days.

And then there was Wednesday night.


At precisely 7:34 p.m., as the curtain rose on the debut of the Joffrey Ballet’s stunning world premiere of the Russian classic “Anna Karenina” at the Auditorium Theatre, my “disarmed” cellphone dinged. Blinked. Flashed.

It lit up like an over-served reporter’s nose at Billy Goat Tavern.

As glittering gowns swirled amid composer Ilya Demutsky’s amazing overture to Leo Tolstoy’s epic Russian love story gone wrong, a text containing the word “scoop” began singing in Sneed’s ear.

Four seats into Row P — and in the midst of darkness, a text message alerted:

“Call me. A major scoop. It’s big. It’s yours alone. Jason Van Dyke [who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times] was assaulted by inmates in his cell after reporting to federal prison in Connecticut.”


Ya gotta be kidding?


It was my day off, but in this 24/7 job it was obviously time to go to work.

So what’s a Sneedling to do?

Curtains were up. Lights were off. House was quiet. Seat mates were already transfixed and glued to their seats.

The ballet had begun.

Do I exit and cause a scene by insulting the artistry of the performers?

Will my usually unflappable boss, Chris Fusco, have a cow if we get scooped?

Why am I worrying when my column isn’t due until Sunday?

Why am I not drinking a dirty martini?

Why do I feel so guilty?

So I did what a 75-year-old woman who has been a reporter for 52 years would do. I alerted my boss, who said: “Mike, we gotta get this up soon!”


I quickly thanked my host, Joffrey President and CEO Greg Cameron, who graciously stated, “Oh, Mike. Understood.”

Bolting the auditorium, I raced to my car parked two blocks away at the Chicago Club ratcheting up two-knee-replacement speed one notch.

Only then did I discover that I had lost my wallet somewhere along the way. No way to pay Victor the valet.

Now minus a driver’s license, I zipped carefully to my West Loop office only to discover I was also minus card access to get into the Sun-Times building!


Jason Van Dyke’s sentence was fair — Kwame Raoul is wrong to challenge it

Tragic coincidence: 1st cops to see Laquan McDonald usually had a Taser

Tiffany Van Dyke demands answers on husband’s prison transfer

Ex-Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke beaten in prison in Connecticut, his wife says

Did I also mention I was interviewing my source in the car via pen on my theater ticket en route to my office?

• The upshot: Thanks to the patience of Sun-Times reporter par excellence Nader Issa, editor Candi Meriwether, copy editor Jeff Britt, front page editor Bryan Barker and designer Eric White, we were able to get the story up hours ahead of the Chicago Tribune and had the first interview quoting Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany.

• The buckshot: However, minutes before we moved the story online, WGN tipped Van Dyke had been assaulted in federal prison … even though it was minus the details and quotes from Tiffany.


Around 10 p.m., I left the office, sped back to the Auditorium Theatre in search of the missing wallet — only to find the doors locked.

Then I gingerly drove to the Chicago Club only to find no wallet had been found.

At 11:30 p.m. I hit home to find my wallet on the kitchen table.


So would it have been wiser to spend my night off at home sipping vodka, eating Chicken Kiev, and watching Anna Karenina throw herself under a train for love on TV … rather than answer the cellphone?

Not on your life.

I’d be a damned fool not to see the rest of the ballet which snagged rave reviews; and where choreographer Yuri Possokhov shines in the Joffrey’s brand new production under the artistic direction of the amazing Ashley Wheater — before it heads elsewhere February 24.

But know this: there is nothing more exciting to a print journalist who earned her chops in the golden age of journalism decades ago … than a front-page scoop!

Daley schmooze . . .

Memo to Billy “Big Boy Pants” Daley.

Your slip is showing.

Or did you dump your garters after ditching a recent mayoral TV debate at the last minute claiming you’d rather be with “normal people” before heading to a Plumbers Local 130 endorsement in the wake of getting trashed in an old newspaper story?

So Sneed’s been meaning to ask.

Normal people?

Who they?

Sneedlings . . .

A big Sneed shout-out to my old pal, retiring WVON Radio legend Cliff Kelley, an alderman I shared a few chuckles with during my early years as a Chicago Tribune reporter decades ago. A big hug, Cliff. . . . I spy: Bulls legend Scottie Pippen spotted dining with a group of friends at TAO recently. . . Ditto for actress Jessica “Gossip Girl” Szohr. . . . Saturday’s birthdays: The Weeknd, 29; Ice T, 61; and Lupe Fiasco, 38. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Michael Jordan, 56; Ed Sheeran, 28; Vicente Fernandez, 79; and a belated birthday wish to Tom Grusecki, priceless.

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