The Failures Before the Fires

42 fires and 61 deaths, in a city that knew about fire safety issues and didn’t fix them.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Apr 23, 2021
Length: 20 minutes (5,000 words)

Strangers on a Train

Long-distance train travel offers Alexandra Marvar and her fellow passengers a lift across the country, a break from their routines, and a chance to get to know each other.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Feb 19, 2020
Length: 7 minutes (1,867 words)

The Quiet Rooms

Schools across Illinois have been punishing students by locking them into “seclusion rooms” — essentially putting them into solitary confinement. Schools say the isolated timeouts are a necessary tool to dealing with students who pose a safety threat to themselves or others, but many of the students put in these rooms have disabilities and receive no therapeutic value from being locked away. Not long after this Tribune/ProPublica investigation was published, Illinois took emergency action to end this practice.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Nov 19, 2019
Length: 30 minutes (7,726 words)

Meet the Table Busser Who’s Worked at the Same Wilmette Pancake House for 54 Years

Othea Loggan made minimum wage in 1964. He makes minimum wage now. The owners are somehow fine with that.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Aug 30, 2018
Length: 12 minutes (3,195 words)

What it’s like to be black in Naperville, America

Brian Crooks moved to Naperville, Illinois when he was in the 5th grade. His stories of mistreatment and insults, both blatant and unintentional, show the daily, unrelenting racism flung at a person of color in America.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Jul 14, 2016
Length: 12 minutes (3,032 words)

His Saving Grace

Cooking saved chef Curtis Duffy from a turbulent childhood, but it also exacted a price.

Author: Kevin Pang
Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Feb 14, 2013
Length: 28 minutes (7,200 words)

What Happens When a Poetry Magazine Gets $200 Million?

Poetry magazine started in Chicago in 1912, and during the ensuing century, the magazine’s history and the history of American poetry often were joined at the hip. It published an unknown T.S. Eliot, gave early support to Langston Hughes, discovered Wallace Stevens, James Merrill, Gwendolyn Brooks. What Poetry rarely had was a history of picking fights, rising blood pressures or heated controversies. Until the money arrived.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Jun 20, 2011
Length: 8 minutes (2,051 words)

A Chef’s Painful Road to Rehab

A week earlier, Brandon Baltzley, 26, was the head chef at Tribute, an ambitious, 170-seat restaurant set to open in the Essex Inn in the South Loop. He spent months developing his menu, crafting a document to tell the world: This is who I am. Instead, on this morning in late May, he will check himself into a drug rehabilitation program on the West Side. The night before, he paid $100 he owed his dealer. He gave his apartment keys to a friend with instructions on locating his cocaine paraphernalia. Throw it all away, he told him.

Author: Kevin Pang
Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Jun 6, 2011
Length: 8 minutes (2,085 words)

Making Chicago’s Top Chef

With three Michelin stars to Grant Achatz’s name and many critics convinced that Alinea is now the best restaurant in the United States, Achatz and Kokonas are in an enviable position: They can do what they want. … Take, for instance, Next’s reservation system. There are no reservations. If you want to eat there, you will have to buy tickets through Next’s website. So far, 15,000 have signed up to be notified when tickets go on sale.

Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Feb 16, 2011
Length: 22 minutes (5,676 words)

Pastry Chef Natalie Zarzour Doesn’t Tolerate People Who Cheapen Her Craft

To understand why customers disappeared, why she entered a self-described period of rage, why the cannoli now costs $9, why the Zarzours will close the shop when their lease runs out in September and how Natalie Zarzour became Chicago’s most provocative pastry chef in a profession with little provocation, just ask her about the “Lobster Tail.”

Author: Kevin Pang
Source: Chicago Tribune
Published: Dec 21, 2010
Length: 6 minutes (1,576 words)