American Ninja Warrior local leagues host ninja competitions

By Junie Burns
Medill Reports

After swinging, balancing, climbing and flying through the first 10 obstacles of the ninja warrior course, pro competitor Derrick Pavoni paused for a brief moment to stare down the final obstacle: the infamous American Ninja Warrior Warped Wall.

The crowd watched eagerly as Pavoni, a 26-year-old pizza maker nicknamed “The Pizza Ninja,” sprinted up to the top of the 14-foot-6-inch Warped Wall to finish his perfect course run.

Windy City Ninjas, a Chicago Ninja Warrior training gym, hosted its first Athlete Warrior Games (AWG) competition of the season on Oct. 6. Pavoni, an Illinois native, finished in first place out of 26 competitors.

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New Grounds in Town: Newport Coffee brings taste of Stockholm to the North Shore

By Jake Holland
Medill Reports

Coffee has been big in Chicago since the ’90s, but the North Shore, says Mikael Bengtsson, can now hold its own. “It’s bubbling up here,” says the engineer-turned-barista, who this summer opened Newport Coffee with his wife, Lotta. The Evanston cafe, 622 Davis St., serves high-end coffee (a standard latte will run you about $5) and pastries with a Swedish flair. Bengtsson’s second location — the first is in Bannockburn — held its soft launch July 1, with plans for the official launch slated for later this fall. I sat down with Bengtsson to talk about caffeine, the shop’s aesthetic and his vision for the brand.

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Plant power: Vegan track stars share how they compete in meets without meat

By Caroline Kurdej
Medill Reports 

Like 3 percent of Americans, DePaul University running stars Violet and Henry Harper self-identify as vegans.

On a recent Wednesday evening, the Division I athletes ambled into their student center.  The pace: a lot slower than last month, when Violet led her Blue Demon teammates in the Badger Invite women’s 6K and her brother led his in the men’s 8K.

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The Man in Front of the Door: Derrick James opens up about life as a doorman

By Carter Mohs
Medill Reports

Sitting comfortably behind his desk in the quiet lobby of the Streeter Apartments, just over a quarter-mile east of the Magnificent Mile, Derrick James greets residents and visitors with an infectious smile, as if he’s known them for years. Sometimes he has. Born and raised on the South Side, the 36-year-old switched four years ago from working the counter at his family’s dry cleaning business to manning the door. It’s a place where studios start at more than $1,500 per month. He likes his job because all he just needs to be himself both on the clock and off. Between catching up with residents and accepting food deliveries, James talked with me about the job.

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After-words bookstore owner shares how she got started

By Areeba Shah
Medill Reports

Beverly Dvorkin, owner of After-words in River North, discovered her love for stories as a toddler. At 15, she got her first job at a bookstore and edited her high school newspaper. She spent a semester abroad in London during college and wrote for City Limits, a feminist magazine.

After living in Boston, Washington, D.C., and London, Dvorkin returned to Chicago at 25 to fulfill her dream of opening her very own bookstore in May of 1997.  Over two decades later, After-words remains one of the few independent bookstores left in Chicago.

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Two comedians discuss their journey from Northwestern to Twitter stardom

By Alex Schwartz
The Daily Northwestern

Twitter may be a fiery hellscape most of the time, but seeing a side-splittingly funny video makes scrolling through the pain worthwhile.

Never longer than a minute or two, comedians spend these short, short films depicting an absurd character or bit. They’re often recorded selfie-style and feature amateur production value. No one knows their origins, and the Twitterverse hasn’t quite decided on a name for them. Nevertheless, behind some of the Evil Bird App’s most popular examples of the art form are two Northwestern alums: Nick Lehmann (@NickStopTalking) and Eva Victor (@evaandheriud).

The two are basically making TikToks, except they’re not teenagers — though Lehmann does call his clips “stupid little funny videos.” I fired up my own front-facing camera to FaceTime them to ask about their lives as Wildcats — and the wild rides that came afterward.

Read the full story in The Daily Northwestern.

Photo at top: Nick Lehmann and Eva Victor have earned millions of likes and retweets on their short, comedic Twitter videos. (Alex Schwartz/MEDILL)

Performance artist fights against stigma around mental illness

By Carolyn Chen
Medill Reports

Kate O’Neil, a performance artist, created a platform for people with invisible disabilities to recognize their symptoms and express their feelings. She hopes her work will educate people about hidden disabilities and remove the stigma around mental illness.

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AI brings brand new experience in recruiting, while data poses challenges

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Hiring the right people is crucial to an organization’s success and companies are turning to artificial intelligence to optimize that process.

AI, which uses computer science to make machines imitate human intelligence and behavior, is revolutionizing numerous industries. It is the technology behind Amazon Inc.’s cashier-less stores, Tesla Inc.’s self-driving vehicles and Apple Inc.’s Siri voice assistant. It is also lending a helping hand to the recruiting industry to find the right people for the right jobs.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent for July, which is near a five-decade low. Despite being good news for job seekers, the rate has some employers desperate to find talented workers when so many people are already employed.

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AI for candidate screening: eliminating or reinforcing bias

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

While job applicants hope they are evaluated based upon their capabilities and skills when applying for a job, hiring decisions can be full of biases, ranging from dismissing a candidate simply for a name to focusing recruiting efforts on elite schools.

With multiple studies revealing discrimination in recruitment, artificial intelligence is being embraced as a way to level the playing filed. AI removes human interaction from some parts of resume and video screening, helping to address conscious and unconscious hiring bias. But despite creating a more consistent and fairer way to evaluate applicants, it has the potential to be problematic.

Resume Screening

A 2016 study by Cornell University showed that resumes reveal candidates’ personal identifiable information and may introduce bias into the screening process, especially at the initial stages. It found that candidates with Caucasian-sounding names had 50 percent higher call back rates for interviews than those candidates with African American-sounding names. Research by PayScale, a salary trend analysis website, revealed this year that women face barriers to being hired at tech companies, with females being just 29 percent of the industry.

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Veggie co-op in North Lawndale brings fresh produce to residents with dietary restrictions

By Trina Ryan
Medill Reports

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, Reynaldo Engram arrives at work early to sift through boxes of carrots. He performs this task with painstaking precision, holding each carrot up to the light, rubbing his thumb slowly over its dirt-speckled orange skin. As hub assistant at Farm on Ogden, a spacious agriculture facility on the West Side of Chicago, Engram’s responsibilities include anything from watering plants to sweeping floors to cleaning bathrooms. “I do what I’m asked,” says the 59-year-old, smiling. But today he has an important job, one he takes seriously: inspecting produce for defects. He wants to make sure the most attractive-looking vegetables go out to his neighbors of North Lawndale.

“I want everyone to feel as strong and healthy as I do,” he says. “Not too many folks around here can say they feel that way at my age.”

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