(Some of) the Best of Chicago Journalism, 2013
An open letter to Richard Deitsch
by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)
January 6, 2014
To Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated,
Like everyone in Chicago, I spent much of Sunday gearing up for today’s windchillapalooza. This meant shoveling/salting the front stairs and sidewalk and testing/bolstering my arctic wardrobe.
I also spent time reveling in the 49ers-Packers game, drinking mimosas with my girlfriend and reading.
Namely, I finally checked out your best 100 pieces of journalism of 2013.
And hot damn, that’s a lot of good writing.
You selected several of my favorite stories of 2013, especially Wright Thompson’s eye-opening profile of Michael Jordan facing middle age.
I also loved seeing the double shout out to Indiana University senior Jessica Contrera of my college paper, the Indiana Daily Student, for her story about an IU freshmen’s death and her viral feature on the closing of Bloomington’s Waffle House.
Ernie Pyle represent!
You are a great lover of and supporter of journalism, and I – like many others – appreciate your journo boosting.
That said, as is the case with any list, even ones a reader respects & enjoys, yours felt incomplete.
I imagine many readers have their qualms. Mine, (other than my surprise to see Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story left off) is this:
Why no love for Chicago?
100 links, and not one from or about the Windy City. That was a surprise.
Your list focused on individual pieces. I understand that approach.
But the list is also supposed to honor the best in journalism, and not all great journalists get the opportunity to deliver a singular piece. Some contribute by producing valuable beat reporting day in, day out.
In 2013, Chicago had a few key stories/beats/trends; some are old standards, others were new. But they affected every Chicagoan: gun violence, public transportation woes, education battles, poverty, budget cuts and all things Rahm Emanuel.
Thus reporters covering any of those areas definitely deserve your attention.
This is by no means an attempt at a comprehensive list; I have left off many outstanding Chicago reporters and stories, and I hope that my fellow Chicagoans will pitch in with their favorite pieces of 2013.
Think of this more like a starter’s guide.
First of all, for my money, the #1 voice right now covering Chicago politics is Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader. No one combines ear-to-the-ground reporting with classic Chicago flair quite like Ben.
And I can’t mention Ben without acknowledging his frequent partner Mick Dumke. When he’s not working in tandem with Ben on stories like Chicago’s shady TIF budgets or the city’s disastrous parking meter deal, Mick is busy writing the sort of long reads that comprise much of your list, like this recent one on Chicago’s heroin trade.
But Ben & Mick are hardly the only game in town. And so Mr. Deitsch, if you are reading this, here are some names to keep an eye on in 2014:
- Robin Amer, a multimedia reporter formerly with WBEZ and now involved with the McCormick Journalism Foundation. .
- Angela Caputo, an award-winning reporter with the Chicago Reporter.
- Darryl Holliday and Erik Rodriguez of the Illustrated Press, a “comics journalism” outlet – basically the graphic novelization of shoe-leather reporting.
- Natalie Moore, a terrific reporter responsible for WBEZ’s ongoing trauma center coverage, most recently in April 2013.
- Peter Nickeas, the great overnight crime reporter for the Tribune whose twitter feed plays as a live stream non-fiction Chicago horror story. Also important on Chicago’s overnight crime desk is Adam Sege, and formerly Will Lee.
- Carlos Javier Ortiz, whose photography – as he writes on twitter – “is grounded in a deep commitment to addressing discrimination, poverty, and racism.”
- Fran Spielman, the longtime Sun-Times City Hall reporter who commands the respect of her peers, readers and subjects.
- Tracy Swartz of RedEye, who has become one of the city’s most trusted sources on homicide data as well the CTA. The latter became a robust beat in 2013 with the (here comes that word again) disastrous roll out of the Ventra system.
- Also vital to the city’s homicide coverage is DNAInfo.com.
- Much has been written and said the past two years about Chicago’s vibrant hip-hop scene. We are responsible for two of the biggest country’s biggest new artists of the past two years (Chief Keef in 2012, Chance the Rapper in 2013), and our music journalists, and particularly our hip-hop journalists, have been instrumental in keeping music fans informed. So shout to the teams at Fake Shore Drive, Ruby Hornet, GoWhereHipHop, Windy City Underground, CHIRP Radio, Vocolo and my friends at True Star Magazine and the Lyrical Lab, among others. Also gotta give it up to Jim DeRogatis & Greg Kot of Sound Opinions, and the team at SoundFuseMag.
As for individual pieces from or about Chicago, here are some of my favorites from 2013:
- The brilliant two-part episode of This American Life chronicling life at violence-plagued Harper High School
- Meanwhile, of the 400+ homicides in Chicago in 2013, none received more attention than the January killing of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Jennifer Delgado, Bridget Doyle and Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune profiled three of Hadiya’s friends.
- Along with Tracy Swartz’s CTA reporting, Yana Kunichoff of the Chicago Reporter and Jason Pretchel of Gapers Block gave Chicagoans all the information we needed on Ventra’s parent company Cubic Transportation Systems.
- In the sports world, I loved this profile from ESPN’s Michael C. Wright about the friendship between Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins and the Long brothers, Kyle of the Bears and Chris of the Rams
- Slate’s Josh Levin ended the year with the tale of Linda Taylor, the so-called “Welfare Queen” of Reagan campaign lore.
Lastly, the one Chicago piece that absolutely should have been on your list due to its place in history: the final piece of writing from Roger Ebert, America’s great film critic.
Titled “A Leave of Presence,” the post was Roger’s declaration for the next phase in his career.
It ran April 2, 2013.
He died two days later.
That’s all, Mr. Deitsch. Thank you for your time, for your support of journalism and for your wonderful list.
And keep an eye on Chicago in 2014! We might have a few stories worth remembering.