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John Cassellis, a news cameraman for a Chicago television station, and his soundman, Gus, cover a wide spectrum of events, including the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Resurrection City in Washington, D. C. John's attitude is cool and dispassionate; he films the victim of a car crash before calling an ambulance and encounters hostility and accusations of social irresponsibility when covering a human interest story in a black neighborhood. He has a run-in with 13-year-old Harold, whom he suspects of breaking into his car. Fleeing the parking lot, Harold drops a carrying case containing a pet pigeon. Once John realizes that the boy was not trying to rob him, he returns the case to the slum tenement where Harold lives with his mother, Eileen, a welfare recipient who moved from her West Virginia home when her husband was sent to Vietnam. Meanwhile, tension mounts in the city: war protestors plan to demonstrate during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and Chicago's police force and the Illinois National Guard prepare for a confrontation. Criticized by his superiors for shooting too much film and outraged at his television station's surrender of his footage to the FBI, John creates a row and is fired. During this period of inactivity, he devotes most of his time to Eileen and Harold, thereby ending his long affair with Ruth, a nurse. As the political convention begins, John gets a free-lance assignment to cover the event. On the eve of the first session at the International Amphitheatre, Harold becomes so upset at seeing his mother and John embracing that he runs away from home. Eileen searches for him in Grant Park and is caught in a violent clash between demonstrators and police. Finding her in the midst of armed National Guardsmen and exploding tear gas bombs, John takes her to his car and drives her around the city, unaware that Harold has returned home. Distracted by the day's events, John loses control of the car and smashes into a tree, killing Eileen and seriously injuring himself. A passing motorist stops for a moment to photograph the accident and then drives on.