Midway through Medill

Man in orange shirt shows off tattoo

Today was my last class of my second quarter of grad school, which means I’m pretty much halfway through my time as an apprentice journalist, as I’m thinking of it. At this very moment I’m just trying to catch up on my sleep debt, which is more profound than I realized. But for those who found interest in the work I’ve been doing this term, here are the back four stories that I filed, rounding out my 11 required.

  1. Military suicide epidemic compels survivor families to speak out (June 6, 2013)
    Of the military families the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors looks after, as many have lost a veteran family member to suicide as to combat. Andy and Julianne Weiss of Naperville are of that number: their son, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Danny Weiss, took his own life in March 2012. The Weiss family is determined to confront the issues of mental health and suicide risk among veterans, especially given that, according to government statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
  2. Warrior artists explore art therapy for veterans (June 5, 2013)
    Veterans and art therapists are working together to formulate new counseling programs using creative arts therapies outside of the VA system. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Albany Park Community Center have just completed the pilot year of their VetCAT program, using a variety of approaches to bring veterans healing.
  3. Veterans without VA health care eligible for Medicaid through Obamacare (June 5, 2013)
    Thousands of uninsured Illinois veterans could start receiving health coverage when the Affordable Care Act provisions expanding Medicaid eligibility kick in on Jan. 1, according to a study released in March. Many factors could be keeping these veterans from using VA health care benefits, including, in some instances, a choice to avoid the VA entirely.
  4. Healing through art for veterans at Portage Park museum (May 28, 2013)
    A new exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum shares and explores the work of veterans who are artists, and why art has been valuable to them.

I have a letter to the Chicago veteran community that I would like to write, but the short version of it is that it has been such a privilege and such a pleasure reporting on such an extraordinary group of people, all of whom are doing such important and amazing work. I thank everyone I’ve spoken with for entrusting me with their stories.

The counterpart to the “Hello, world!” post: “I aten’t dead yet.”

Well, that’s embarrassing — the first piece of spam on Magpie & Whale made it through Akismet, which I then had manually go in and delete, to my shame. It’s been, what, three months since I updated? Many apologies; there’s been a lot going on.

Medill is going well — it’s going very well, in fact. I continue to be wildly, wildly happy, with the program, with the people and with this profession. We’re coming up on the end of the quarter, and it looks like all my final projects are due on June 3, which is inconvenient, as that’s my mom’s would-have-been 70th birthday and I will be in Ohio that weekend. She, of course, would not let me get away with not doing the work, so it’s going to be a busy week.

I have a new side project that I keep banging my head against, trying to make it go from concept to outline to execution. It’s more “what if?” Shakespeare, though it’s more in line with the play (Henry IV Part 1, for the curious) than Innogen is with Cymbeline. (I also have not forgotten Innogen. It pains me that it’s still stalled. There is a break coming up, though, and hopefully that will be fruitful. Thank you everyone for your patience. If George R.R. Martin can [sort of] do it, so can I, goshdarnit.)

In the meantime, if you’re interested in the reporting I’ve been doing as part of the Medill News Service this quarter, here are links to my seven published stories so far; I have four more to go. I’ve been covering veterans and military families, and I’m spending this Memorial Day transcribing interviews conducted at the opening of the new exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum, so I suppose that’s apropos. Continue reading “The counterpart to the “Hello, world!” post: “I aten’t dead yet.””

Laramie is my Ithaka

Holiday travel as a metaphor for existence, or at least your twenties? It could be a thing. I just wrote “I Made It to Wyoming” for Oy!Chicago, which is part travelogue, part confession of poor planning habits and part announcement: next week will be my last at my present employer. After that comes another adventure.

My first flight, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, was scheduled to leave Midway around 1:30. I’m terrible about packing. I always tell people I have packer’s block, and can only do it the morning I leave. It only takes me half an hour at the outside, so I was prepared to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at my Lincoln Square apartment with a huge mug of my favorite tea. Until, of course, I remembered that I wasn’t giving myself nearly enough time to navigate a major airport on the busiest travel day of the year. I’m not saying the scene that followed was from Home Alone, but it’s not as far off the mark as I like to admit.

Continue reading “Laramie is my Ithaka”

Those were our times: Patti Smith’s Just Kids

I have two Patti Smith songs in my iTunes library: one is a live performance of “About a Boy” from the 1997 Tibetan Freedom Concert, and the other is a cover of “Don’t Smoke in Bed” from the eternally awesomely named Ain’t Nuthin’ But a She Thing. For most of my life, these and her status as “the Godmother of Punk” were all I knew about her. I never expected I would have feelings about her and her work, but as it turns out, that’s only because I hadn’t met her yet. Continue reading “Those were our times: Patti Smith’s Just Kids”

High four-and-a-half!

I know, I know, I never write, I never call! Last week I got caught up in my head about what to write for Monster Mash, and this week I’ve been caught up in, well, I don’t know what. But I wanted to share a post that I wrote for another blog!

Oy!Chicago is a blog collective for young Jewish twentysomethings; I’m a regular contributor, usually writing about health issues, but occasionally I get to add something a little different. Today, it’s taking a look at the brilliance that is @MayorEmanuel, the fake Twitter account of Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, who over the past month has really put us through the ringer. I take a look at the implications and the effect this has had on its readership, along with some thoughts on what makes the experiment so great.

Read it all at Goodnight, sweet nine-and-a-half-fingered prince.

(As for my own Rahm story, I did get to shake his hand at an El stop this election cycle. It was on the day he was struck off the ballot for the residency issue, and I was very impressed that he was down at the turnstiles in the State and Lake station, rather than huddled in a conference room or raging from a podium. Yeah, call me impressionable, but it was neat. He’s not a big guy, but I liked that I got to shake his hand. Yes, it was the hand with half a middle finger. He said “Nice to see you” and then moved on to whoever was next. I’ve had my brush with greatness. And who’s to say I didn’t meet @MayorEmanuel himself?)