Storyteller appeals to my baser instincts

I’ve come to dread the voice of Keith Morrison.

Even if you don’t know who he is, you probably know who he is.

He’s the voice of murder.

So to speak. Literally. Speaking of murder.

He’s the guy who narrates all the murder recaps for Dateline and other true-life crime documentaries. A profile of Morrison in the Chicago Tribune that caught my eye described his voice as a “deep and expressive baritone that soars and dips.”

Can’t you just hear him say, “But why would there be a half-eaten cherry pie on the windowsill?” “How could broom handle end up in the trunk?”

No? Thank your lucky stars.

My Beloved’s favorite way to relax lately is to watch these Dateline murder re-enactments, and I hate them. I couldn’t care less how some meek housewife in Idaho turned out to be an evil, gun-toting volunteer on the PTA who killed the treasurer or how a conniving salesman in Salem tried to fake his long-suffering wife’s suicide with a bottle of bleach and a toaster oven.

I don’t know these people. I don’t live in their towns. I’m not a PTA member. These murders, while tragic stories, do not affect my life. They already happened; I can’t stop them. Knowing how psychopaths operate doesn’t help me predict future psychopathic behavior.

But they are so compelling (Dateline producers have been writing this stuff for two decades for a reason). As soon as Keith Morrison poses the key question in the case — “How could his daughter travel back in time to bludgeon her father with a stuffed moose head? — I’m hooked. I’ve got to know how she did it. How did the police catch her? What did the jury do? How many years in prison did she get?

These television shows appeal to my baser instincts and I hate myself for it.

The same profile that described Morrison’s voice as mellifluous also described why the journalist has made a career of these types of stories.

“[H]e recalls a ‘big surprise’ early in his career when he was ordered to get a ‘pick up’ for a story about a crossing guard who had been hit by a car and killed. He pulled up to the widow’s house just hours after, feeling ‘like the worst person in the world’ and asked her for a picture of her late husband. And she invited him in, gave him tea and biscuits, and talked for a long time — which is when Morrison realized people want to get their story out. You don’t exploit victims. You facilitate their agenda.”

I get it. I was a reporter once. I was the rookie who was asked to call grieving spouses and parents about the latest accident or murder victims. Some of these people hung up on me or said “no comment” or bitched me out for intruding on their sorrow. I politely left those people alone. I wasn’t the pushy reporter portrayed in Hollywood disaster movies.

But more often than not, bereft mourners were happy to describe their loved one’s life and personality. They were glad for the opportunity to talk about the way the person lived, instead of just leaving the world with an impression of how they died. They wanted to have a say, and I was their megaphone. I believe in storytelling that illuminates the human condition.

I still dread hearing Morrison’s voice because I know it’s just an invitation to waste an hour of my life in front of the boob tube.

But, after learning a bit about Morrison’s personal story, I can appreciate the role he’s fulfilling as a master storyteller.

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