Fall 2016

‘Fake news’ about flu shot

By Yvaine Ye
Medill Reports

Baby boomers, Gen X-ers and millennials hardly ever agree with each other on the same issue, but more than half of them have found common ground on the flu vaccine. They are not fans.

More than 7,000 people died as a result of flu and flu-related disorders such as lung disease from 2010 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus also sent approximately 2 million people to the hospital in the same time period. Sure, everyone hates getting the flu, but only 43 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot last year.

Continue reading

Undocumented and exposed under a Trump presidency

By Alexa Mencia

[A version of the story was originally published in The American Prospect.]

Operating room nurse Jose Aguiluz knew that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was only a Band-Aid for his immigration problem. It wasn’t a pathway to citizenship. The benefits it offered were limited, temporary.

But critically to Aguiluz, it was a way out of the shadows. For the first time since he fled Honduras to the U.S. in 2005, he found himself not having to tell white lies to his friends and peers. With a Maryland driver’s license, Aguiluz didn’t have to pretend that he had environmental reasons for not driving a car. With a work permit and a Social Security number, he worried less about having a run-in with the police. He didn’t have to think about how any and every action he took might lead to his deportation. Aguiluz was even able to visit Honduras without fearing that he would be denied re-entry into the United States.

But the DACA benefits that made Aguiluz feel more secure under President Obama could make him suddenly vulnerable when Donald Trump becomes president. Aguiluz and thousands of DACA recipients trusted the Obama administration with their personal identifying information in a trade-off that gained them short-term security. But in the turnover to Trump’s administration, that same identifying information could now be used against them. It’s one of the many unknowns now burdening DACA recipients, who have no idea how long their work permits might be valid, and who fear transgressions as petty as jay walking might get them deported. Efforts to protect such immigrants, moreover, face practical and legal barriers

With DACA…With Trump

Trump has pledged to end DACA and to deport between 2-3 million “criminal” aliens. Many DACA recipients now wonder whether they even have a future in the United States—in most cases, the only home they have ever known. With no clear sense of how the Trump administration will define criminality, DACA recipients can only speculate over who might be targeted for deportation. To date, the incoming administration has provided no information or clear direction as to what might happen to DACA recipients’ work permits, which have given them access to higher-paying jobs, health insurance and steadier work.

Continue reading

Package of Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline stories

 Standing Rock

These stories on Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline have been supported in part by SJNN and the McCormick Foundation. They have been co-published by SJNN.

One of the security personnel, who is in charge of checking people who leave and enter the Oceti Sakowin Camp, stands beside a flag that was painted with the battle cry of Standing Rock: "Water is life.” (Photo by Pat Nabong/MEDILL)
One of the security personnel, who is in charge of checking people who leave and enter the Oceti Sakowin Camp, stands beside a flag that was painted with the battle cry of Standing Rock: “Water is life.” (Photo by Pat Nabong/MEDILL)

When Cloee Cooper, June Leffler and Pat Nabong proposed in late Sept. 2016 to go from Chicago to North Dakota to report on the ongoing movement by Native American tribes to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from being completed near the Standing Rock reservation, some news organizations had covered the story, a few were invested in continuing to report, but it was still an under-reported, off the beaten track story, with friction developing between protesters and law enforcement authorities and between protesters and journalists.

Cooper, Leffler and Nabong anticipated a number of scenarios that might arise that would be worth elaboration. They needed to be there, develop trusted sources and return to Chicago to continue reporting on the story. They could not have predicted that the DAPL controversy, involving a pipeline that was already 90 percent completed, would result in the halting of the pipeline; the characterization of the movement as a potential model for cross-cultural protest; the election of Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of oil pipelines, and the re-invigoration of the controversy as a focal point for what the new administration will do.

They stayed with the story and put out a package of stories that captured nuances that inject the story with iconic and historical resonance – about the import of political, law enforcement and labor alliances, the modest influence of Native Americans in electoral politics; the presence of tribal rivalries; the dignity of the Native American cause; and the role of climate conditions. In the package of stories, Cooper, Leffler and Nabong have teed up a challenge for journalism: How will journalism cover Native American affairs and its convergence with other agendas; environmental, political and intersectional?

NoDAPL supporters chant ‘Mni wiconi’ and it’s not just about water, By Pat Nabong and June Leffler, Dec. 7, 2016

Illinois’ pipeline construction proceeds with reservations but no rancor, By Cloee Cooper, Nov. 29, 2016

Trump’s ascendancy intensifies #NoDAPL movement, By Pat Nabong, Nov. 23, 2016

Native Americans seek visibility in their vote, By Pat Nabong, Nov. 8, 2016

Native Americans put aside differences at Standing Rock to fight pipeline construction, By Cloee Cooper, Oct. 28, 2016

Bitter consequences: Pipeline protesters batten down the hatches for North Dakota winter, By Pat Nabong and June Leffler, Oct. 19, 2016

All-points call for more deputies to police Standing Rock protest draws critics,  By June Leffler and Cloee Cooper, Oct. 19, 2016

Can Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day co-exist? By June Leffler, Oct. 6, 2016

Siding with Standing Rock at the Naperville Powwow, By June Leffler, Sept. 29, 2016

Happy anniversary, Marktown: 100th year surviving

By Jingzhe(Kelly) Wang

Marktown, in East Chicago, Indiana, is less than a half hour drive from the south side of Chicago. It’s in a different state and is in many ways in its own world.

Built in 1917 as a planned community for a steel company, Marktown welcomed more than one thousand residents living in about 200 houses. Only 10 percent of the original design was actually built. The streets were designed as walkways and the cars were to be parked on the sidewalks.

In 1975, the community was added to the National Register of Historic Places and listed as one of the seven wonders of Northwest Indiana for its architectural and historical significance.

Continue reading

Mother finds holiday cheer nine years after her son’s death

By Jasmine Minor

Debra McDonald, a mother of five, lost her youngest son in a traumatic backyard accident nine years ago. She reflects back on the experience and how far she has come in her healing process. In preparation for the holidays, she leans on her family, friends and faith for strength.

Photo at top:Javaun McDonald with his mother Debra McDonald at his middle school football game. (Provided by Debra McDonald)

East Chicago residents face risk of high lead

By Cloee Cooper

Sarah Willis lives near a former U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery, Inc. plant with her husband and granddaughter in East Chicago, Indiana.

The area was designated as a Superfund site, a  federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. While residents in the nearby West Calumet Housing complex were ordered by East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland in September to relocate because of high lead and arsenic levels in the soil, Willis and many others in the nearby residential area are waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean their contaminated soil.

Continue reading

Open art studio offers sexual assault survivors healing in Ravenswood

By Carolyn Talya Cakir

There is a still that settles around the room as people begin to create.

Surrounded by art created by sexual assault survivors, eight people sit at two fold-out tables in the center of The Awakenings Foundation art gallery in Ravenswood.

They are participating in Making Matters, an open art studio session for sexual assault survivors. The monthly event is a chance for those touched by sexual violence to come together and heal through creativity.

A joint effort between Rape Victims Advocates and Awakenings, Making Matters carves out a safe space for those affected by sexual assault.

“We started this group as a way to build community and solidarity around the issues of sexual violence,” says organizer Jordan Ferranto. “A place to kind of unwind, relax, enjoy each other’s’ company, make some art, and just kind of be present with each other.”

Continue reading

Immigrants use Snapchat to amplify their voices before Trump

By Marianna Brady

President-elect Trump has used Twitter during his campaign and after his presidential election victory to speak directly with the public. He’s harnessed Twitter as a way to quickly express his opinions. Undocumented immigrants and members of Congress are turning to the platform Snapchat to share their stories.

We used the messaging app Snapchat to talk to immigrants who spoke out about their thoughts and fears about President-elect Trump’s threats to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants and to reverse DACA – a program instituted under Obama that allows certain young undocumented immigrants to go to school and work without fear of deportation. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) also submitted snaps promising to stand behind immigrants in Congress. We collected them into the video below. You can follow Medill Reports on Snapchat at medillreports. Reporter Marianna Brady is also on Snapchat at mariannabrady.

(Photo illustration by Marianna Brady/MEDILL)

Climate scientists gather to tackle urgent challenges for the planet

By Janice Cantieri

“You can’t open a McDonald’s ketchup packet without the little notch. Try it, okay?” noted climatologist Richard Alley.

Without the little notches, plastic ketchup packets are almost impossible to open no matter how much you pull or tear. Cracks in the world’s ice sheets are like those little notches, Alley said. Once these cracks appear in ice sheets, the stress concentrates there and eventually can lead to large sections of ice falling off and melting quickly.

Alley, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, used the analogy to describe how ice sheets can rapidly break apart due to preexisting “cracks” or “notches” in the ice produced when meltwater opens small crevices and then makes them big ones, he said. “When you make these cracks bigger, it makes [the ice sheet] break way faster,” Alley said at this year’s Comer Abrupt Climate Change Conference.

Alley and a gathering of the world’s top geologists, paleoclimatologists, engineers and climate modelers meet each fall in southwestern Wisconsin to discuss their most recent discoveries on the origins and consequences of abrupt climate change.

Continue reading

Christmas comes early at the Chicago Cultural Center

By Kelly Calagna

The Chicago Cultural Center came alive Sunday with the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, The Nutcracker.  About 500 little ballerinas took over the grand ball room in a free public event made possible by the volunteer efforts of Ballet Chicago and the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band. The tutu’ed participants received a ballet lesson, then took their new moves to the dance floor as snow fell outside the windows looking over Grant Park.

Christmas Comes Early at the Chicago Cultural Center from Medill Reports on Vimeo.

Photo at top: Little ballerinas learn to the moves to take The Nutcracker to the dance floor. (Kelly Calagna/MEDILL)