The rival ‘nightcrawlers’ of Chicago TV violence are having a moment in the light

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Covering overnight violence for Chicago’s TV news might seem far from glamorous, but a handful of recent articles inspired by the Jake Gyllenhaal movie “Nightcrawler” are trying to convince you otherwise.

And the most recent example — this sprawling 4,500 word account of freelance cameraman Pauley LaPointe’s life in Chicago magazine — adds to the spice by revealing an Anchorman-esque rivalry between two of the city’s top graveyard shift competitors.

Between them, LaPointe and his rival Ken Herzlich have been to thousands of murder scenes and covered some of the city’s biggest stories. But they simply don’t get along, Bryan Smith reports:

In the blood sport that is TV news, the competition among freelancers is more than fierce; it is at times ugly, personal, cutthroat even, at least between LaPointe and his chief rival, Ken Herzlich, who runs Network Video Productions. Both have been around forever. Both despise each other. To LaPointe, Herzlich is a game player who tries to shut him out of a scene by all means possible: He’s just a mean-spirited guy. To Herzlich, LaPointe is a showboat: the dyed hair, the Crown Vic, and the claim that he’s the model, at least in part, for the Jake Gyllenhaal character in the filmNightcrawler,about a video journalist with no conscience. LaPointe wants to be on TV, Herzlich says. He wants to be famous. That’s just not me. I want to do the work. Counters LaPointe: I compete by kicking that guy’s ass every night.


Pauley LaPointe | (facebook)

WhileGyllenhaal’s character in “Nightcrawlers” takes competition to dangerous extremes — sabotaging a rival’s van and causing an accident — LaPointe and Herzlich seem content to trade insults.

But while Herzlich gets the better of one battle with LaPointe in the Chicago magazine article, he has been compared to Gyllenhaal’s character, too.


Ken Herzlich | (Thomas Yau/Facebook)

In this Moviepilot article, he describes how he’s been caught in the middle of gunfire, how the biggest threat to his safety might be the drunk drivers who fill the streets at 3 a.m., and the shocking images that stay with him long after he’d finished another graveyard shift:

One of Herzlich’s horror stories is covering the fire at the Paxton Hotel, a single occupancy room building. I was very close by when the call came in and got there with the first arriving fire equipment. Literally every window of the place had somebody hanging out of it. … People were jumping out of the windows and landing next to me. … The screaming and stuff really bothered me for a long time.

And in a memorable line from a 2004 Chicago Tribune article by Rick Kogan, Herzlich, who has been chasing violence on Chicago’s streets for more than two decades, described a key skill of his job:

He has been out here six nights a week for the last 12 years, waiting in his car for something to happen. It’s like fishing, he says. You have to be very, very patient.

LaPointe, for his part, featured on Newshour this week (scroll to 3:30):

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