Trying to keep the blues alive in Chicago isn't easy
Last month Crain's Chicago Business published my story "Blues is Chicago's most famous cultural export. Why don't we do more to promote it?" a question that has persisted for years, if not decades, in this town. Thankfully, the story received a lot of attention; Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano invited me on their WLS show to discuss the dilemma, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked pressed on the issue during an appearance on "Chicago Tonight."
Hello 2017 — It's already a busy year
January may be a slow month for most industries, but for news in Chicago, things are already heating up.
The Washington Post had me on a number of stories this month, starting with a story out the West Side involving a Facebook Live videoing of the torture of a special needs victim. Read more here.
President Obama flew to town to give his farewell address to a room of supporters at McCormick Place. I was there but ducked out early to head to Bronzevile to talk with people at various viewing parties who, in their own way, was saying goodbye to their hometown president. I made note in this story for the Washington Post that, to them, Obama was not just a sitting president, he was also their neighbor.
I also have a story out this month, still pending, on why activists for police reform in Chicago are suddenly worried their progress will be rolled back during a Trump presidency. The story is not yet live but I'll post it this week when it runs.
On Monday I'll have the major feature in Crain's Chicago Business that explores why Chicago historically has played down its incredible legacy of blues, jazz, and gospel. Unlike smaller cities like St. Louis, New Orleans, and Memphis, Chicago has no museum, statues, signage, and other indications it is proud — or even understands — its most famous global cultural export. The story gets deep into the reasons why this is the case and looks at suggestions things may change. We'll see. Out of everything I've written about over the last 20 years, I'll admit this topic is one that is close to my heart and I'm proud to keep it front and center so the conversation doesn't stop. Read it here.
Finally, I started teaching a new media writing class at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The semester is already underway and there's certainly enough in the headlines to keep us busy through May!
Washington Post stories in July — And Dolly!
This month (July 2016), I've been busy at the Washington Post. This weekend I have the front page feature of the Sunday Arts section! The story is on New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield who is the subject of a three-year federal probe for diverting money from the New Orleans Library Foundation, a private entity tasked with raising money for the city's public library system, to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, his personal non-profit that pays him a high six-figure salary and has been used to promote his career.
You can read this story here.
I also traveled to St. Joseph, Michigan, to report on a mass shooting at a county courthouse that left several people, including the shooter, dead.
Finally, I wrote a feature for the Post on he struggle many elderly musicians face when they reach a certain age and don't have the fund for their mounting medical costs. Many, like surf rock legend Dick Dale, are forced to continue to tour despite major ailments. It's a sad story that I hope will be remedied soon. Check it out here.
Oh, and I interviewed country music legend Dolly Parton for The Guardian!!
My new gig covering Americana music for The Guardian
What a busy Spring! A few months ago I was named a contributing writer at The Guardian. My beat is Americana music. Every week I'll be writing about artists and trends out of Nashville and other music-rich cities. The full archive will soon be up on this site, or you can check here. Among highlights so far have been looks at new albums from Robbie Fulks, Loretta Lynn, Dierks Bentley, Todd Snider, and a Grateful Dead tribute curated by The National.
Then there were the deaths of Merle Haggard and Guy Clark.
I've continued to cover the unfolding police reform saga for The Washington Post. However a fun detour was diving deep into the unexpected partnership between "Star Wars" creator George Lucas and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a museum that is struggling to get off the ground. It ran a few Sundays ago in the Post, read it here.
There IS good news coming out of Chicago. His name is Toronzo Cannon.
The three-day aftermath of a mass shooting in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Sunday morning I was summoned by The Washington Post to head to Kalamazoo, Mich., where a shooter went on a rampage Saturday night, killing six people. Arriving 12 hours after his arrest, I found a city in shock: Neighbors in disbelief, community members worried how their city would look in the media, and of course, memorials. There is sadness in how these events now seem to follow a certain pattern.
My first story established the facts, as much as we knew late Sunday. The second story covered the arraignment of the shooter, among other details that emerged that day. The final story talked of possible motives.
What is unnerving is how this case apparently is off-script when it comes to mass shootings: The violence was random, the shooter had no criminal record or history of mental illness and no affiliation with hate beliefs, and he surrendered quietly to authorities. The investigation will last months, so I'm sure more details will emerge then.
I'm handing POLITICO's Playbook all week!
I'm filling in with colleague Natasha Korecki this week (2/7) in producing Illinois Playbook, the morning feature on Politico that looks at what's important that day in Illinois, Chicago, and elsewhere in the state. Subscribe for free here to to get it in your mailbox before the sun's up.
Reviewing Bruce Springsteen and Black Sabbath
In one week I reviewed two major tour heading through Chicago. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band brought "The River" tour here in celebration of the 35th anniversary of that double album. (Thirty-five years? It doesn't seem possible, although I was too young to buy it the first time around. Later in the week, seminal British hard rock band Black Sabbath played the second date of their year-long world tour titled "The End."
In other news, I appeared on WCHB radio in Detroit Tuesday, Jan. 26, to talk about the Flint water crisis and my coverage in The Washington Post. The most recent story was on escalating costs homeowners face in having to one day retrofit their home in response to nearly two years of corrosion. The story is here and to stream the interview, click here.
Detroit, Flint, and Chicago's police scandal have kept me busy
Since late November I have been immersed in the Chicago police scandal that continues to grow. Writing for the Washington Post on the ground from Chicago, my work started with the release of the LaQuan McDonald video by CPD, the protests that followed, the resignations, the pledges for reform, and then two subsequent videos involving the shooting of unarmed black teenagers on the South Side. Here is the latest report.
My work struck a lighter not in Detroit where I covered the boom of restaurants over the past two years! The story ran on the front of the Washington Post's dining section. Read it here.
Then there is Flint, Mich. One of the saddest stories of last, and presumably, this year, is the awful truth that people in that city have been drinking, bathing, and otherwise consuming water with incredibly high levels of lead. I went there two weeks ago to report for the Washington Post and will be returning for a follow-up. You can read that report here. It covers why this happened, the political fall-out in Lansing, and the despondency people there are feeling being hit with this scandal.
There was a bit of levity in all this work. I covered opening night of the Miley Cyrus/Flaming Lips tour for The Guardian. Read here.