A note was published on Gapers Block yesterday announcing the site will go on an “indefinite hiatus” on January 1, 2016. If you followed the site at all, it’s worth reading the entire thing.
Gapers Block was my journalistic home for three years and as a result of the time spent there I grew as a writer, editor and person. I started as a writer for Mechanics, the politics section, which always kind of surprised me because I viewed myself as being completely unqualified as I had been a theater blogger and the most notable thing in my background was I dropped out of The Theatre School at DePaul University. From 2013 through 2015 I was the editor of Mechanics, which was a fun adventure and I’m eternally grateful to Andrew Huff, the editor and publisher, and Ramsin Canon, who proceeded me as the editor of Mechanics, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the site.
As a send off, I thought I would round up my favorite pieces I wrote or edited because Gapers Block was such a unique part of Chicago media some of these pieces feel like they only could have been published there.
“The Kitchen So Nice They Inspected it
Twice 19 Times“–This was actually published on Drive-Thru, but this was a fun piece to write and the headline is still amazing.
“To Treat Everyone: Stroger Hospital“–I had this crazy idea to write a series examining the Cook County Health and Hospitals System largely because it’s something even the most progressive Chicagoans avoid like the plague. I wanted to know what it really was like and met some incredible people who work at the hospital.
“To Treat Everyone: Fantus Health Center“–I mention in the first sentence of the third paragraph the entrance to Fantus smelling like the cheese powder for boxed mac and cheese. To this day I can’t eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because I always think of Fantus, which is fine because I’m supposed to cut back on my dairy consumption.
“Chicago Launches New Website to Aid Winter-Preparedness“–I’m mostly including this because I think this is the only time Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office responded to my requests for a comment.
“Ventra’s Parent Company: An International History of Fare Card Glitches“–During the month of October there were a lot of articles being published on all of the problems associated with Ventra, the fare card for Chicago’s mass transit. I had been trying to think of a way to write about it, but couldn’t, so when Jason Prechtel emailed me asking to write about Ventra, I told him to go for it. What I didn’t expect was he would write something this extensive, which is one of the most pleasant surprises I had while an editor.
Jason was also a finalist for a Lisagor Award for that piece, which led to me having a massive Proud Mama moment.
“Can Metra Successfully Switch to Ventra? Possible, but not Probable“–More great writing on Ventra from Jason Prechtel.
“The Saga of Edgewater Medical Center“–You are taught to never write about inanimate objects at the Michigan State School of Journalism. However, this was the third time I wrote about a health care facility and it seemed to work well for me. I also wrote this article while I was in the middle of a really deep depressive state and somehow writing about an abandoned hospital and the red tape surrounding it being redeveloped helped get me out of the place I was in.
“How Lawsuits, Lobbyists and Parking Meter Deals Led to Ventra“–Again, another great piece on Ventra from Jason Prechtel.
“Community Organizer Amara Enyia is Taking on Rahm Emanuel to Make a Point“–This felt like one of the fairest pieces I read on any candidate in the 2015 municipal election, even though Enyia didn’t make it very far. I was sad about that since it really felt like she was going to be a real advocate for the residents of the South and West sides.
“Chuy Garcia Jumps In, Realignment Begins“–I got a lot of angry emails over Phil’s wrestling analogy, but I still stand by it.
“How an Overlooked Rauner Job Creation Plan Caused Problems Across America“–More great explanatory journalism from Jason Prechtel
“Jane Byrne, the Bold Mayor“–Of course I’m including my tribute to Jane Byrne.
“Willie Wilson’s Game Plan“–Or, Phil Huckleberry tries to clue all of us in as most of us were scratching our heads over Willie Wilson’s campaign.
“When the Room is Small and You Stink“–This piece has my favorite sentences I edited while at Gapers Block:
These are not tough decisions; they are decisions that disproportionately harm poor and black and brown people. Ending mental health services for poor and working class people is a sad decision. Making the rich and powerful pay to keep those mental health services going is a tough decision.
“Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm’s Woes“–The last Civics column published, but it’s a good one.
I’ll miss Gapers Block. It really was a great part of Chicago media.