April 25, 2013
This video profile of Dr. Donald R. Hopkins, vice president of health programs at the Carter Center, was released this week on NYTimes.com. I met with Dr. Hopkins a couple weeks ago in the office in his home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. We chatted about his long career in public health, and he introduced me to his dead, pet Guinea worm — a specimen of a parasite that causes a painful affliction that Dr. Hopkins, along with former President Jimmy Carter, has worked for decades to eradicate. And they are tantalizingly close to achieving their goal.
Click here to read the beautifully wrought profile — Another Scourge in His Sites — by Donald G. McNeil, Jr.
April 6, 2013
I’m a little late on this, but I spent St. Patrick’s Day at Lincoln Square Lanes (a new discovery/favorite place in my neighborhood), where a trio called the Polkaholics played polka rhythms on rock instruments. Their sets included favorites like the Beer Barrel Polka and the Hokey Pokey, which had the crowd dancing and sweating and screaming and hooting. The three musicians — “Dandy Don” Hedeker (on lead vocals and guitar), “Blitz” Linster on bass and “Stylin’ Steve” Glover on drums — played in a style that’s a delightful mix of Frankie Yankovic and Weird Al Yankovic.
It made me a little nostalgic for Ohio. On Sundays when I was growing up, there was a show on a Cleveland TV station (WEWS) called Polka Varieties. The show’s opening announcement dubbed Cleveland the “Polka Capital of the World.” I used to watch the show with my grandparents in Mecca, Ohio. I don’t think Grandma would have liked the rock-influenced version of the thrashing oom-pah band that are the Polkaholics (not as much as I do), but she probably would have danced anyway.
CORRECTION/COMMENT: Because I was in a hurry (and, well, lazy), I misnamed the band members in my original post because I cut and pasted from an old bio instead of reading my own notes from the evening. Those names have been corrected. Also, at the request of the band, I removed an observation you may see referenced in a comment below. A rather rough couple making an inappropriate gesture was an interesting thing to note in a blog, but on further reflection I can see how one word used to describe the gesture would color this post in a way I did not intend, so I’ve removed it.
April 4, 2013
On Easter morning, the Community Christian Church of Lincoln Square held an Easter Egg hunt for the kids in the neighborhood at Winnemac Park. I used it as opportunity to get out with my camera on a fine spring morning. Great fun. Cute kids. See for yourself.
February 8, 2013
One of my favorite lines from the James L. Brooks film “Broadcast News” (and I have many favorite lines from that movie), is when Aaron Altman (played by Albert Brooks) chides his colleagues for including in a news package a scene of a reporter confronting an Army general, mostly to show the journalist being tough: “Let’s not forget, we’re the real story. Not them.”
I think of that whenever someone wants to do a story about a journalist, especially me. I’m much better at telling other people’s stories than telling my own. So I was a bit shy when Medill asked to profile me for its quarterly magazine. There’s a very good cover story/profile of NYTimes public editor Margaret Sullivan (a Medill alum). A few pages in, you’ll see yours truly.
I’m grateful to Shannon Shelton Miller for her careful reporting, and to Ray Whitehouse for his patience in making the portrait for the story. [I'm also much more comfortable behind the lens of a camera than I am sitting in front of one.] Though, looking at the image, I should have taken the advice offered in another scene from Broadcast News, when William Hurt as anchor Tom Granick says to Brooks’ Altman: “When you sit down — sit on your jacket a little — that gives you a good line.”
Too late now.
At least I’m not sweating like Albert Brooks did in his first anchor appearance in that film.
December 18, 2012
At Isla Mujeres in Mexico for a few days of R&R after a hectic school term, soaking in some sun before heading home to Ohio for Christmas. I’m trying to get caught up on sleep, do a little scuba and read some books.
The first was a re-read of The Hobbit. I brought along my 1979 copy of the Tolkien classic – to bone up on all things Baggins, dwarf and Smaug before seeing the first of the three films this slimmest volume of the series has spawned.
Yesterday, Efrain, a waiter at the beachside Na Balam hotel restaurant noticed the book and said how much he loved the Lord of the Rings movies and was looking forward to seeing the new one. But he loves books even more. “Nothing is better than the imagination,” he said.
November 7, 2012
Supporters listen to President Barack Obama speak at his campaign’s election night party at McCormick Place in Chicago. Photo by John V. Santore/MEDILL
Last night, 16 graduate students in the Medill urban affairs reporting class fanned out across the city — from congressional candidate events to the Cook County Clerk’s office to the convention hall where President Obama would give his victory speech — reporting on events via blogging, tweeting and making instagram photos.
Check out their work here:
Medill Reports: Election 2012
Medill Reports: Picturing an Election
I was kept busy backfielding and managing the coverage from a laptop as posts and tweets fed in from all across the city.
It was an exciting and mighty busy night.
Supporters cheer President Barack Obama as he speaks at McCormick Place on election night in Chicago. John V. Santore/MEDILL
November 5, 2012
In the final days of the presidential campaign, winning boils down to getting people to actually go to the polls. With the political trench warfare at its most intense in Ohio, a crucial battleground state, voters are being courted, cajoled and pestered on the airwaves, on the phone and at their doors.
I joined New York Times reporters Monica Davey and Michael Wines in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio, on the opposite end of the state from where I grew up in a rural/rust-belt county. Here’s my video report. In a quick two days (I had to get back to my students in Chicago and couldn’t stay longer), I managed to gather enough scenes to illustrate some of the exquisite details Davey and Wines gathered in their reporting, which showed a contrast between the two campaigns.
The Obama team was built on its successful operation in 2008 and has mounds of data and a neighborhood-by-neighborhood plan that puts volunteers in front of voters door-to-door. The Romney team is less organized, less granular, but has a challenger’s edge on passion among their the volunteers.
In my brief reporting trip, I met Obama volunteers preparing to canvass neighborhoods, Tea-Party-esque phone bank callers conducting surveys designed to convince people to vote against the president, and I caught up with a 20 year-old Americorps worker named Katie Peterson who is excited to vote for President the first time in her life. “I’ve been following presidential politics since the Clinton administration,” she told me.
In a news cycle dominated by coverage of the destruction of SuperStorm Sandy, I was surprised and pleased that the video piece led the New York Times site yesterday for an hour or so.