General Interest

Q and A with Laura Polanco, candidate for District 99 school board in her hometown of Cicero

By Ankur Singh
Medill Reports

Laura Polanco, 34, is a parent who was born and raised in Cicero. She’s currently running for school board for Elementary School District 99 and hoping to advocate for other parents like her in the district where she attended school. She is one of four candidates running for three seats up for re-election on the board in the April 2 elections.

 Medill Reports: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Laura: Sure. My name is Laura Polanco. I’m a lifetime resident here in Cicero. I went through District 99, District 201 [high school], and I’m an alumni of Morton College. I was born here and I grew up here. I’m married and I currently have two kids. My oldest is currently at Columbus West (elementary) and that’s one of my biggest reasons that made me pursue [running for school board]. Continue reading

For those who pushed for Illinois minimum wage increase, automation poses questions, challenges


By Dwight A. Weingarten
Medill Reports

The Illinois state minimum wage will rise to $9.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020, increasing for the first time in a decade, and to $15 an hour by 2025. But the struggle of low-wage workers and their political allies who fought for the increase face a seemingly steep obstacle—automation, robotics and kiosk services.

In the spring of 1964, civil rights activist Bob Moses spoke at Stanford University in an attempt to recruit students to join him in Mississippi to help register voters. Moses’ words about organizing and human rights hold true some 55 years later and will frame the struggle that achieved the $15 minimum wage in Illinois – click on Moses’ words quoted in this story to hear the original recording of the speech.

The Demonstration
“All the questions about automation, all the questions about our schools, all the questions about our cities—what kind of cities will we have?—all of these find their focus in the public eye in terms of some kind of civil rights demonstration or another.” Bob Moses Continue reading

Taking command of cyber risks: Tips and tools you can use now

A guide to keeping your digital information exactly that: yours

By Tyler Sonnemaker
Medill Reports

Has your personal information leaked in a data breach? (Not sure? Use this tool to find out). How about passwords — still using “password” or “123456” for everything? Do you want to keep prying eyes away from health records, personal finances or information about your children?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions and want to better protect yourself online, this guide is for you. If you’re still wondering why you should care about cybersecurity or privacy, learn how tracking and hacking can impact even average internet users. Continue reading

Plans for former coal plant irk Pilsen activists

By Lauren Robinson
Medill Reports

This story has been revised to reflect the status of Hilco’s relationship to the former Fisk site.

Seven years after Pilsen residents celebrated the closure of the Fisk coal plant, activists are gearing up for a new campaign: to demand input in the site’s redevelopment and oppose the continued operation of diesel-fired “peaker” plants.

Continue reading

Mary Schmich is world famous – but you may not know her

By Andrew Donlan
Medill Reports

Mary Schmich was walking to work at the Chicago Tribune, as she did everyday, when she passed a young woman naively soaking herself in some of the first strong rays of sun on Lake Michigan after a long Chicago winter.

“I remember thinking ‘God, I hope she’s wearing sunscreen.’” Schmich said. “And I kept walking and I thought, you know, I’ve just got so much advice I’d like to give to young people.”

She laughed at herself, realizing she’d reached the age where such thoughts even crossed her mind. Later, she fired up her computer, grabbed a coffee and some M&Ms from the vending machine at the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue and began writing.

“Wear sunscreen.”

Closer to the end of the summer of ’97, a few months after she passed the sunbathing girl, Schmich got a call from a friend. His sister, who lived in Denver, had sent him an e-mail of a commencement speech by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT. It looked an awful lot like something he had read from her in the Chicago Tribune months earlier, he said.

“You better get on this,” he told her. Continue reading

Water contamination threat continues for the Navajo Nation

By Lily Qi and Lu Zhao
Medill Reports

Uranium, arsenic, lead … have you ever thought about these metals contaminating the water you use and drink every day? Once they reach a certain level, these elements can cause illness and even endanger your life. This is what has been happening in the Navajo Nation with its centuries old history and culture.

Spread across portions of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation possesses the largest land among Indigenous tribes. The territory encompasses spectacular scenery across vast areas but that makes it harder to test and address the water contamination problem on this land.

How severe is the contamination? Earlier this month, we took a reporting trip to the Navajo Nation to observe and inquire. Listen to the podcast and see what we found out about the water there.

Podcast by Lily Qi and Lu Zhao/Medill

Continue reading

Big Ten Tournament Notebook – Michigan State defeats Michigan 65-60 to capture Big Ten tournament title

By Neel Madhavan
Medill Reports

The five-day Big Ten Tournament kicked off with thousands of people pouring into the United Center Wednesday evening, March 13 as the games culminated with the championship on March 17. Step back through the highlights for your favorite Big Ten teams.

March 17

With about 2 minutes left in the Big Ten tournament title game, Michigan State trailed Michigan by five points, 60-55. From the top of the key, Spartans junior guard Cassius Winston drove towards the paint and dished a pass to senior guard Matt McQuaid on the wing.

McQuaid promptly rose up and drained one of his Big Ten tournament championship game record-breaking seven three-pointers to cut the deficit to two.

From that point on, Michigan State could do no wrong and Michigan collapsed, as the Spartans closed out the game on a 10-0 run to win their first Big Ten tournament championship since 2016, 65-60.

Continue reading

A disappointing Northwestern Men’s Basketball season ends in a fitting way – with a loss

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The Wildcats’ season ended with an overtime loss in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center last week,  ending a dismal 2018-19 season

by Tim Hackett
Medill Reports

March 13, 2017. Northwestern Men’s Basketball prepared for a trip to Salt Lake City, reveling in the previous night’s announcement that the Wildcats would – finally! – be participating in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Cats emerged victorious over Vanderbilt in their first ever tourney game before falling to eventual national runners-up Gonzaga in the second round.

March 13, 2019. Northwestern Men’s Basketball retreated to the locker room at the United Center in Chicago, players and staff in tears, as the reality set in – following a 74-69 overtime loss in the first round of the 2019 Big Ten Tournament – the nightmare  2018-19 season was finally over. Two years after the greatest season in the history of Wildcat basketball, the Cats turned in one of the worst. Northwestern finishes with 13 wins overall and just four in conference play, both the lowest totals since 2012-13, Bill Carmody’s last season as Northwestern head coach.

Last week at the United Center, Carmody’s successor Chris Collins encapsulated the frustration that has followed his team all season long. Continue reading

The language of justice: Court interpreters fight for client rights and their rights in Cook County

By Kimberly Jin
Medill Reports

Morelia Orozco* walked into one of the 36 courtrooms in the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th Street and California Avenue, holding a clipboard with her schedule in her arms. The Spanish-speaking court interpreter in her forties talked to the court clerk to see if any case is ready to start. It was the morning of an ordinary Monday in February.

But before she began to handle the case, Orozco received an unexpected text message that asked her to go downstairs immediately to another courtroom which had already requested an interpreter three times, but no one showed up. Even though it was not her assigned work floor, Orozco rushed downstairs to take care of the case, leaving the two floors of courtrooms assigned to her unattended. Continue reading

A mosquito can become a video game hero in Japan

By Jessica Xieyang Qiao
Medill Reports

A lone mosquito patrols the Yamada family to stock up on blood for the coming winter. You are Mister Mosquito, an uninvited guest who pesters the hapless Yamada family. They want you dead. You want to bite. The battle is on.

Quirky as it sounds, Mister Mosquito is a Japanese video game released by ZOOM Inc. in 2001. Unlike U.S. video games that depict  post-apocalyptic journeys or commando attacks, Mister Mosquito allows you to experience the hardship of a mosquito’s life.

“In Japanese video games, there are craftsmanship and culture that you don’t see in other countries,” said John Davis, co-founder of BitSummit, an annual Kyoto indie game festival. “Japan never shies away from having anime, strong female protagonists or other types of subjects in games. There has never been a cookie-cutter approach to game semantics.” Continue reading A mosquito can become a video game hero in Japan