Caught on Tape

You don’t want to be on the business end of Carl Monday’s microphone. As the television sweeps period arrives this month, we talk to the city’s veteran investigative reporter about the finer points of literally chasing down a story.
He doesn’t look like a seasoned investigative reporter as he sits in his office at Channel 19. The soft-spoken 56-year-old could easily be mistaken for a mild-mannered bookkeeper in his shirt, tie, pullover vest and dress slacks. The trademark trench coat and dog-with-a-bone tenacity are nowhere in sight. But for the last three decades, Carl Monday has proved a constant threat to errant city workers and shady business owners. As he prepares to hit the air with some of his most controversial reports of the season, we got Monday on the record about the perils of his job, his encounter with Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and what to do if you ever find him at your front door.

Just how dangerous is your job?
I’ve had death threats. I’ve had an extortion plot against me, lawsuits, the whole gamut.

Have you ever been injured in the line of duty?
The only time I was injured was while I was in radio — I was 25 years old, working for WERE-AM. I boarded a bus in front of Collinwood High School [after an interview], and I was attacked by eight teenagers. They just beat the crap out of me, stole my watch, cut my jacket. I tried to get off the bus, and every time I’d get up, somebody else would punch me. Eventually, the bus driver pulled over and EMS came.

How do you protect yourself now?
I’ve worn bulletproof vests out on surveillance. From time to time, we take security out on a story. But generally it’s just me and my photographer, sitting in a van at 2 o’clock in the morning somewhere.

What about at home?
The only problem I’ve had is when [“The Daily Show”] showed up at my house about a year and a half ago. We had done a story on crimes at [local libraries], which we thought was a serious story. We found one guy, just feet away from the children’s room, masturbating. We confronted the library, and then we confronted him. [“The Daily Show” host] Jon Stewart and his reporter did a little thing on it.

What happened?
My wife had just had a hip operation, and I was taking her to work. It was dark outside. We drove up to the curb, and all of a sudden, somebody ran up to the car. I had no idea who it was. But then I saw the camera. [“The Daily Show” crew] followed me all day. They came to the station. They were interviewing people on the street. I got a good chuckle out of it.

Is there any story you won’t do?
I’d have to say no. People say, “Would you do a story on a relative of yours?” Well, maybe I wouldn’t do the story. But I wouldn’t stop somebody else from doing it.

How did your feud with Mike Trivisonno start?
When I was at Fox 8, we ran a story on the Coats for Kids campaign — it’s a good program, and I’ve helped raise money for it. WTAM was one of the sponsors of the program, and still is. We showed how hundreds of donated coats ended up in a landfill. We also showed Mike in the piece because he was passing out turkeys for coats at Cleveland [Browns] Stadium. The whole radio station went on a weeklong campaign to discredit me, everybody from the traffic guy! The whole feud reignited in November, when we did a piece on The Boneyard in Mayfield Heights because of racism. ... Trivisonno does their commercials.

What should people do if they see you waiting for them?
The consultants say, “Deny everything, but do it with a smile.” I think the best thing to do is say, “Call my office. Set up an appointment. We’ll talk about it then.” The worst thing you can do is run or put your hand in the camera.
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