HEBRON INVESTIGATION: My Northwest Herald investigation into the dysfunction in small-town Hebron under John Jacobson, the town’s mayor, who faced drug charges when he was voted into office in spring 2013. My reporting on this topic earned a 1st place in Investigative Reporting from the Illinois Associated Press.
CHALLENGER BASEBALL: I spent eight weeks as a “buddy” to 8-year-old Jordan Harris in a special needs baseball league. I wrote in first person about the benefits kids receive, but also about the faith-restoring effect the games have on everyone else, from buddies to coaches to fans.
BENJINA PODCAST: When reporting by three AP reporters freed hundreds of slaves off an Indonesian island called Benjina, I knew I had to get them on the podcast. The resulting episode, which I wrote and produced, is an inspiring story about the power of clamping onto an important story and not letting go.
HOUSE THAT CRANE BUILT: I wrote about a witty older guy named Joe Crane, who, after a life of collecting on the side of teaching, decided to open a museum in his tiny hometown of Williamsburg, Missouri. He and his wife had stories.
PROTESTING FOR PEACE: Assigned to write a scene for my advanced writing class, I decided to spend an hour shadowing and talking to peaceful war protesters in Columbia. Turned out they hadn’t missed a Wednesday since October, 2001. I found out why, and the piece ran as a 900-word snapshot scene in Vox.
PRODUCT OF MEXICO: For as long as it had been going, the IRE Radio Podcast had been a collection of shorter segments lending direct advice to journalists. We changed the format with this one, going behind the LA Times’ deep dive into working condition on Mexican farms. The episode turned out, and the format stuck.
CONCUSSIONS PILE UP: Back when people weren’t paying so much attention, Kelsey Schiel suffered six concussions during high school basketball games. As she dealt with the surviving symptoms and a life without basketball, her story served as reason for extending the concussion discussion outside football.
PTSD THERAPY: I spent some time at an alternative therapy group for veterans with PTSD. The therapist, David Welch, strayed from traditional forms of PTSD therapy, which ask vets to drudge up old war stories.
PHUBBING: A very light feature on “Phubbing,” the made-up (not by me, I swear) word representing the phenomenon of snubbing real-world people by putting your face in your phone.
ANONYMOUS ATTENDS MEETING: When the City of Woodstock went soft on punishing a longtime police sergeant for misconduct, the hacktivist group Anonymous attacked online, then in person. Their masked presence intensified – and interrupted – a city council meeting in which the mayor declared that administration would take a step back and re-evaluate the sergeant’s punishment. This is my deadline story from the meeting.
DUI PLEA OPTION: Scanning agendas as any journalist does, I realized one week that all the municipalities I covered were passing a “Careless Driving” charge. I asked around, and it was county-wide. As it turns out, the trend was likely equally driven by financial incentives and the fact that the go-to DUI plea of “Reckless Driving” had been so overused that it held, in the eyes of the legal system, almost no distinction from a DUI.