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Events

Medill in Miami with Dean Whitaker and Alumnus Sam Brock 2/23

Join us for our annual alumni gathering with Dean Charles Whitaker and Special Guest Sam Brock from NBC News
Dean Charles Whitaker invites you to the annual alumni event in Miami for a night of mingling with fellow Medillians and friends. This year, we welcome special guest and Medill alumnus Sam Brock, NBC News correspondent, who will talk about his career journey.

Where: Flemings Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar (private room) 2525 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, FL 33134-6037
When: Thursday, Feb. 23 from 6:00p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
How Much? $15

We are charging a small fee for this event to help support alumni programming. We will, as always, have plenty of drinks and food as well as ample time for networking and mingling!

RSVP

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1970s Featured Legacies Legacies

Jay Howard Leve (BSJ78, MSJ79)

Jay Howard Leve, 66, passed away on December 5, 2022 at his home in Sun City West, AZ.

Beloved Father of Sarah Leve of Philadelphia, PA, Dear Brother of Karen Leve Braverman of Louisville, CO, Loving Uncle to Michael and Jennifer Braverman of Denver, CO and Joshua and Emily Segal of Los Angeles, CA. Dear Son of the late Rubin and Beverly Leve of St. Louis, MO. Former Husband of Betsy Gitelle of Montclair, NJ, and cousin, friend and mentor to many.

Jay grew up in St. Louis before attending Northwestern University where he earned his undergraduate and Master of Science degrees from Medill. After working at the Miami Herald in Miami, Jay attended the Parsons School of Design in New York City and then moved there to head the Humanware Agency at Citibank, a creative think tank for user interface design and development. Jay continued on to become the founder and CEO of Hypotenuse and SurveyUSA, known as America’s Pollster.

At SurveyUSA, Jay revolutionized the public opinion polling and market research industries in the early 1990s by being the first firm to use interactive voice response technology. Asking questions in the recorded voice of a local news anchor ― a Jay Leve innovation ― and answered by respondents pressing keys on their touch-tone phones, SurveyUSA dramatically decreased the amount of time it took to conduct research and its cost, making it possible for the first time for individuals, companies, and organizations of any size to conduct scientific research. In the 30+ ensuing years, Leve grew SurveyUSA into one of the nation’s best-known polling firms, winning numerous awards for accuracy. SurveyUSA won acclaim for the quality of its methodology and construction of questions because Leve consistently applied the rigorous journalistic principles he learned at Medill, practiced at the Herald, and believed in passionately.

Published obituary

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Home Medill News

McCormick Foundation announces $7.5M investment in sustainable, fact-based reporting

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation today announced investments in Block Club ChicagoCapitol News IllinoisInjustice Watch, and Medill. These investments complement the Foundation’s investment in the Illinois Solutions Partnership, formed with the Better Government Association and announced in 2021.

Together, these commitments to strengthening and scaling impactful reporting in Chicago and Illinois are intended to increase government transparency, enhance accountability of decision-makers to their constituents, and ensure public investments are creating and supporting opportunities for all, especially Chicago’s South and West Side residents.

McCormick Foundation grants to Block Club Chicago and Injustice Watch will support more robust investigative reporting on persistent challenges disinvested communities face and the promising efforts many are leading, in Chicago and elsewhere, to create thriving communities. Springfield-made decisions, from education spending to public safety policy, play a pivotal role in Chicago’s communities, but the attrition in statehouse reporting means these political transactions often go unexamined and remain outside the public eye. The grant to Capitol News Illinois will help a promising three-year-old outlet scale to meet the need for greater scrutiny in Springfield.

To ensure these funds drive long-term change, the grants include support for both editorial and business operations at Block Club Chicago, Capitol News Illinois, and Injustice Watch to help these outlets implement sustainability plans that will see them augment and diversify their revenue streams to support continued editorial growth and impact.

Medill, which is already supporting several local news outlets, will be able to expand its support for local media with the new grant from McCormick and provide a range of business analytics, market research, and expert advice to help outlets sustainably scale and serve the Chicago region’s residents.

“Chicago is fortunate to have one of the most dynamic and innovative networks of nonprofit news organizations in the country,” said Timothy P. Knight, the McCormick Foundation’s President and CEO. “All of these organizations have a history of collaborating closely with others, and several of these organizations currently collaborate with each other on a range of editorial, promotional, and operational initiatives. The simultaneous investment in each of these organizations, together with our investment in the Illinois Solutions Partnership, is intended to promote and strengthen collaboration and recognize the strong, complementary skills each of these organizations brings to Chicago and Illinois media.”

Block Club Chicago will receive $1.6M over three years to build a six-person investigative team and deepen its coverage of Chicago’s South and West Sides. Launched in 2018, the nonprofit newsroom delivers daily nonpartisan coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. Its more than a dozen reporters embedded in neighborhoods across the city provide residents continual insights on economic, political, and social developments in their communities. The new investigative team will complement Block Club’s existing daily news team and be positioned to act on tips and pursue longer-lead, high impact stories to improve government transparency and accountability.

“When reporters are embedded in the communities they cover, they’re able to report with context, respect, and deep knowledge instead of parachuting in. Block Club’s reporters have proved time and again that our ground-level approach builds trust with readers, leads to news that is more responsive to the community’s needs and offers a more accurate portrayal of our neighborhoods,” said Stephanie Lulay, Executive Editor and Co-founder of Block Club Chicago. “Thanks to the incredible support of the McCormick Foundation, we’re excited to give Chicago neighborhoods the dedicated investigative coverage they deserve.”

Injustice Watch will receive $1.5M over three years to grow its editorial capacity and expand its audience and revenue building efforts. The outlet is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization that focuses on issues of equity and justice in the courts, especially in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The outlet’s public service journalism is bringing needed awareness and transparency to court proceedings and judicial elections, while engaging community members in the process. The outlet’s three-year strategic growth plan will add investigative reporters and editors, alongside an audience and fundraising team to increase in-person and digital engagement and grow the outlet’s readership and supporter base.

“The McCormick Foundation’s grant to Injustice Watch will enable the organization to amplify its impact,” said Juliet Sorensen, executive director of Injustice Watch. “Our research-driven, human-centered approach to systemic issues will reach more community members and inform and engage them in the process. We are honored by this investment in our future.”

Capitol News Illinois will receive $2M over three years to expand its editorial capacity and add more investigative and Chicago-based reporting. Importantly, the outlet will also hire its first full-time fundraising position and start to build a team to diversify its revenue. It will also add broadcast journalists to their reporting team in 2023 in a partnership with the Illinois Broadcasters Association. Capitol News Illinois (CNI) is a nonprofit news service that covers state government daily for newspapers statewide. Launched in 2019, its stories have been published more than 70,000 times in 460 daily and nondaily newspapers statewide. Since its launch, the news service has added a daily newsletter and a podcast and last year launched a partnership with Illinois Public Radio stations.

“Our news service has had a big impact in its first 3-plus years in the state’s print media because of the initial investments made by the McCormick Foundation and the Illinois Press Foundation,” said Jeff Rogers, director of the IPF, which operates Capitol News Illinois. Rogers is also editor of Capitol News Illinois.

“We are excited about the significant next steps our news service will be able to take with this investment from McCormick. We look forward to greatly expanding our funding base and business operations, extending our audience into TV and radio, and growing our reporting team in the next three years. We’re also looking forward to being a part of a collaborative investigative journalism powerhouse McCormick is fostering with these grants.”

Medill will receive $2.4M over three years to launch the Medill Local News Accelerator, a program to spur innovation and improve long-term sustainability of independent Chicago news organizations. The Accelerator will grow audience engagement; spur revenue growth through digital subscriptions, memberships, sponsorships, and other diversified income streams; and create strategies for long-term self-sustainability of Chicago news organizations. Additionally, Northwestern will launch a new, immersive media leadership training program. Faculty experts from Medill and the Kellogg School of Management, along with media thought leaders outside the university, will provide in-depth training for Chicago media leaders to help give them the tools they need to better manage their news outlets for long-term sustainability.

“We are honored that the McCormick Foundation has chosen to invest in our efforts to help bolster outlets in the Chicago media ecosystem,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “We look forward to partnering with a wide swath of local news organizations to help them chart paths that will lead to their long-term viability and the continued production of robust journalism for our communities.”

About the Robert R. McCormick Foundation

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation envisions a Chicagoland with educated and informed individuals who are engaged in improving their communities. The Foundation invests in organizations working to build thriving communities where all individuals have the resources and opportunities to succeed without regard to income, race, ethnicity, gender, or ZIP code. Established in 1955 upon the death of Col. Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the McCormick Foundation has issued grants of approximately $1.9 billion. The Foundation’s Board also oversees Cantigny, Col. McCormick’s 500-acre estate in Wheaton, Illinois, which encompasses a park, formal gardens, a museum dedicated to the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, and a 27-hole public golf facility. Learn more at mccormickfoundation.org, cantigny.org, fdmuseum.org, and cantignygolf.com.

About Block Club

Block Club Chicago is a nonprofit, reader-funded newsroom delivering nonpartisan and essential coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. Our newsroom was founded in 2018 by former DNAinfo Chicago editors and reporters after the award-winning site abruptly shuttered. In four years, Block Club has transformed from scrappy startup to one of the most read news organizations in Chicago by being responsive to the city’s neighborhoods, publishing more than a dozen stories daily from every corner of the city and informing Chicagoans through our free newsletter, “It’s All Good” podcast, “On The Block” TV show and COVID-19 hotline. In the last year alone, Block Club has been named Editor & Publisher’s Best News Site, LION’s Publisher of the Year, INN’s Community Champion of the Year and we are proudly home to Chicago’s Journalist of the Year.

About Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that has provided free, unbiased daily coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois since 2019. In 2023, it will extend that coverage into broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Illinois Press Foundation and Illinois Broadcasters Association, as well as individual donors.

About Injustice Watch

Injustice Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism organization that focuses on issues of equity and justice in the courts. Our goal is to listen to and center people impacted by institutional injustices and provide them with the perspectives, information, and resources needed to hold powerful people and oppressive systems accountable. We do this through our public-service journalism (such as our Cook County judicial election guides); innovative investigative reporting (such as The Circuit, our ongoing collaborative investigation examining decades of Cook County court data); and intentional audience engagement and community-building. Learn more about our work at www.injusticewatch.org.

About Medill

For more than 100 years, Medill has trained the world’s best storytellers. Whether they are journalists who record the first draft of history or marketers blending data with creativity, Medill students and alumni craft the narratives of the events, people and brands that populate and animate our world. Medill’s hands-on learning programs are matched with innovative research and thought leadership. Learn more at medill.northwestern.edu.

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Books

Bahamian Rhapsody: The Unofficial History of Pro Wrestling’s Unofficial Territory, 1960 – 2020

Ian Douglass (MSJ06)

Spanning 60 years and covering professional wrestling events that took place on both land and sea, this book by Ian Douglass includes original input and interviews from nearly 50 wrestlers, writers, and other noteworthy individuals who played meaningful roles in the progression of the professional wrestling history of the Bahamas.

Not only was Douglass able to include insights from a broad range of wrestlers, including Dory Funk Jr., Jimmy Garvin, Mike Rotunda, Don Muraco, Tyree Pride, Kevin Sullivan, Steve Keirn, Brian Knobbs, Omar Amir and Adam Page, but Bahamian Rhapsody was also completed with the full cooperation of the leading Bahamian newspapers – The Nassau Guardian and The Nassau Tribune.

In addition to broadly covering the professional wrestling events that were held in the Bahamas by territories associated with the National Wrestling Alliance, the book also includes coverage of the development of the independent Bahamian wrestling companies of the 1970s, and events hosted by smaller independent organizations based in the United States and Canada. Furthermore, it explores the challenges of training and developing native-born Bahamian professional wrestlers, from local 1970s wrestling stars like “The Sensational Bahamian Grappler” Arnsel Johnson to multi-time Ohio Valley Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Omar Amir.

Douglass previously co-authored the autobiographies of wrestlers Dan Severn, Buggsy McGraw, Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl and Brian Blair. He has also written for Men’s Health Magazine, MEL Magazine and Splice Today, and has been a contributor to both the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Bahamas Historical Society.

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Books

The Wandering Womb: Essays in Search of Home

S.L. (Sandi) Wisenberg (BSJ79)

Even as a fourth-generation Jewish Texan, S.L. Wisenberg has always felt the ghost of Europe dogging her steps, making her feel uneasy in her body and the world. As a child she imagines Nazis taking her family away, fearing that her asthma would make her unlikely to survive. In her late twenties, she infiltrates sorority rush at her alma mater, curious about whether she’ll get a bid now. Later in life, she makes her first and only trip to the mikvah after a breast biopsy (benign, this time), prompting an exploration of misogyny, shame, and woman-fear in rabbinical tradition.

With wit, verve, blood, scars, and a solid dose of self-deprecation, Wisenberg wanders across the expanse of continents and combs through history books and family records in her search for home and meaning. Her travels take her from Selma, Alabama, where her East European Jewish ancestors once settled; to Vienna, where she tours Freud’s home and figures out what women really want; and she visits Auschwitz, which disappointingly leaves no emotional mark. Finally, after reflecting on hospitality and the mutually assured destruction pact of Airbnb, she settles on a tentative definition of home.

“A sharp, deeply questioning mind and a wayward heart inform these delicious essays. They are wry, humorous, melancholy, and universally relatable, filled with the shock of recognition.” –Phillip Lopate

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Books

Still Hungry Tales from the Shadows

Bob Reiss (BSJ73)

Bob’s 24th book, “Still Hungry, Tales From the Shadows” is a short story collection with 8 tales reflecting a lifelong love with the old Twilight Zone TV series, and the art of showing truths about the real world by getting at them through the back of the mirror. A waitress faced with an unusual customer. A scientist summoned to a military base. A world leader trapped at 30,000 feet. A PR person dealing with a pesky journalist. A teenager’s journey during the last 8 hours before the US splits into two countries. Choices and consequences, highlighted in the shadow world.

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Books

150 People, Places and Things you Never Knew Were Catholic

Jay Copp (MSJ89) You may not be Catholic, but good luck getting through a day without experiencing the impact of Catholicism. Woken up by an alarm and glanced at the clock? The mechanical clock was invented in the 10th century by a monk who became pope. Cornflakes for breakfast? The milk is safe thanks to Louis Pasteur, a devout Catholic whose research was driven by a love of God and humanity.

Relaxing with a beer or glass of wine once you get home? Monks in the Middle Ages, sequestered in their monasteries and needing to fend for themselves, were the first brew masters and also significantly advanced the art of winemaking.

Curling up with a good book by a literary giant? Rough-and-tumble Papa Hemingway was a disillusioned member of the Lost Generation, but as a Catholic he also searched for God as diligently as he hunted big game in Africa.

Perhaps you have a good job because you went to college. The university was a Catholic innovation. Stopping at the hospital after work to visit a sick parent? The Greeks and Romans had some admirable civic virtues, but caring for the ill was not one of them. Early Christians began the first hospitals.

Our customs, pastimes and enduring practices and institutions often can be traced back to an inventive, resourceful and, usually, a devout Catholic.

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Home Medill News

Medill students attend, learn from annual national journalism conventions

By Jenna Wang, BSJ24
Originally published on Aug. 8 in the Daily Northwestern
Photo by Russell Leung (BSJ24) for The Daily Northwestern

When Medill freshman Angela Zhang finished her first year of college, she had all the journalism fundamentals under her belt. Without professional experience, though, she said she didn’t know what pathways to explore.

Spending the summer in Los Angeles provided the convenient opportunity to attend the Asian American Journalists Association’s first in-person national convention in three years from July 27-30, which centered around the theme “Owning Our Narratives.”

“After my first year in Medill, I was in somewhat of a black hole,” Zhang said. “I wrote this down for myself: ‘My goal here isn’t necessarily to force any interactions, but to let my curiosity take me wherever it does.’”

Zhang was one of several Medill students who attended journalism conventions for various professional affinity groups this summer. The conventions provided journalists of all levels with opportunities like workshops, panels, career development and networking in a variety of journalism specializations.

Zhang said one panel that stood out to her was “The Racism Virus: The Next Stage in the Fight Against AAPI Hate.”

She said she learned that despite the standard of objectivity in journalism, Asian American journalists could still retain their humanity and have an opinion — especially when healing from trauma.

“You look around and see journalists of so many different histories, of so many different identities, but at the same time, all connected into this space and into the questions that the panelists were being asked,” Zhang said. “It was a really powerful moment.”

Medill junior Julia Richardson spent the beginning of August attending the joint National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists National Convention and Career Fair in Las Vegas, which was centered around the theme “Changing the Game.”

She said she enjoyed networking and attending workshops about broadcast journalism.

“It was cool to see people that I’ve been watching on TV for so long, even people that I kind of know but (haven’t) really had a chance to talk to, or mutuals through social media,” Richardson said. “The camaraderie was really special.”

As she hopes to pursue broadcast journalism in a local market, she said she appreciated the panelists’ honesty about navigating the field as a woman of color.

Being in a space with people who looked like her and spoke honestly about their career paths allowed her to learn about the realities of what she could face later on, she said.

“Being a person of color, you don’t always go into newsrooms and see a ton of people that look like you,” Richardson said. “It was really cool to look around and see that so many people like me want to do the same things and have the same goals.”

Medill sophomore Brendan Le said having a space where journalists of color could feel comfortable is one reason the NU student chapter of AAJA, Asian American Student Journalists, was created.

Since the chapter’s revitalization in Spring Quarter, Le said he and the executive board promoted AAJA’s convention as an opportunity for students to meet other Asian American journalists in the industry.

“The idea came from a lack of space for Asian American journalists to have a discussion about journalism from their perspective,” Le said. “In classes, we often are so limited in what we can talk about, especially in terms of the identity of journalism and how being Asian American plays into our coverage and events that involve us.”

Richardson said after the convention, she spent time reflecting and decompressing on everything she had learned.

Though this year’s convention felt more low-stakes as a rising senior, she said next year might be a different story.

“Hopefully, knocking on wood, I’ll have a job by this time next year,” Richardson said. “(The convention) felt more like a good training ground for what’s to come.”

Zhang said she believes she has a better idea of the journalistic avenues she wants to explore, like the intersection of data visualization and art.

Her biggest takeaway is to pursue what speaks to her heart — something she said she wants to continue to nurture during her time at NU and share as an upcoming peer advisor.

“One thing I realized is that it is possible as an Asian American in this field to venture on and be your own director and own your narrative,” Zhang said. “I want to share this spirit with other students and other people who might share some of the identities I have or might not, and that in itself is part of what I think storytelling really is.”

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1950s Featured Legacies Home Home

Russ Bensley (BSJ51, MSJ52)

Reprint from Legacy.com 

Robert “Russ” Bensley finished his final broadcast on August 9, 2022. The oldest (by minutes) child of Robert Daniel Bensley and Sylvia Gates Holton Bensley, Russ is survived by his children Skip Bensley, Robin Arena, and Vicki (Ryan) Stevenson; his grandchildren CJ, Sabrina, Jordan, Sarah, Andrew, and Ryan, as well as his twin brother Edward (Laura) Bensley. He is predeceased by his wife, Patrica Bannon Bensley. Also survived and predeceased by a sea of those who admired and respected him throughout his long career at CBS, as a horse farmer, and as an overall great guy.

Russ grew up on and around the University of Chicago campus, where his grandfather was the head of and his mother professor of Anatomy (and the first female graduate of the University of Chicago Medical School), and his father and aunt were integral to the vast scientific advances made there, particularly in the realm of diabetes research, for which the senior Robert Russell Bensley won a Banting Medal. He graduated from Hyde Park High School and went on to earn both an undergraduate and master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. During his years there, he commuted daily from Hyde Park, as he was also caring for his grandfather.

Russ’ career began in radio, eventually landing him at the WBBM-TV station, where he wrote and anchored the late-night news broadcast. Amusingly, this broadcast was watched by one Pat Bannon while sitting at Wally’s Tap in Homewood; she would meet him in person and then marry him almost 20 years later. Russ made his national news television debut doing “man on the street” interviews following the death of JFK.

The CBS network then brought him to New York, quickly making him a producer (eventually executive) of the Evening News with Walter Cronkite. In 1968 he took a crew to cover the Vietnam war, got shot, and then evacuated to a hospital that was then bombed.

“Not a great day” as he put it.

In 1971, he won the first of four Emmy awards for his work on the groundbreaking documentary, “The World of Charlie Company,” for CBS.

After his time on the evening news, he headed the Special Events Unity, covering events like space shuttle launches, royal weddings, and presidential conventions and elections. He recently told his family he loved special events because he wanted to be where the action was. He was the executive producer of On the Road with Charles Kuralt, which he enjoyed for the interesting and uplifting stories. He also taught journalism courses as a guest teacher in a variety of settings, including Columbia University, New York.

After his retirement from CBS in 1985, he, Pat and daughter Vicki moved to Niles, MI, where they raised Morgan Horses until 2003. When asked about what seemed like a major life change, Russ was frequently known to quip, “It’s just a different kind of manure.” He continued remote work for CBS for almost 3 years, putting together a videocassette series, The Vietnam War with Walter Cronkite.

After horse-farming, he took up his favorite title full-time-Grandpa. Russ and Pat moved to Homewood, IL (where Pat had grown up) in 2003, and he remained there until 2014, when he moved into the home his daughter, Vicki, and husband Ryan built for them. He enjoyed the rest of his years in the “west wing” with Vicki, Ryan, his grandsons Andrew and Ryan, and a variety of cats and dogs whom he adored. His grandsons clearly benefited from his constant presence; both have gone into journalism.

Russ celebrated his 84th birthday by jumping out of a “perfectly good” airplane, handling it like a pro, and at 86 had to have an amputation of his lower leg (unrelated to the jumping out of an airplane) proceeding to put everyone in rehab – including 30-year-olds – to shame. (Upon waking from surgery being asked how he was, he replied, “Footloose and fancy-free.”) He walked at home without so much as a cane, and used a walker only at the annoying insistence of his daughter. Until the stroke that disabled him seven weeks prior to his death, he took daily walks, got his own paper and did the crosswords, all while shaking his head at the changes in TV news.

Russ’ colleagues say he was among the best in the business, and to this day speak with great admiration and affection for him and his work. Giants in the industry have described him as “one of the all-time great television news producers and editors” and “the best newsman television ever had….[and] that for a few years a lot of Americans got their information about what was going on in the world from the honest and direct way [he] chose to tell them.”

Russ’ kind heart was even bigger for animals. If you are inclined to honor him in some way, please make a donation in his name to the South Suburban Humane Society, where many of his beloved pets came from. If you want to honor him another way, sneak some oreo cookies and perhaps a good, dark beer.

And above all, the family encourages you use the phrase he was famous for as often as you can – “Everything is Going to be All Right.”

https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/legacyremembers/robert-russ-bensley-obituary?id=36206997%26utm_source%3Dfacebook%26utm_medium%3Dsocial%26utm_campaign%3Dobitsharebeta

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Magazine Issues

Medill Magazine Issue 103

In this issue, we celebrate Medill’s Centennial with a narrative timeline and archival photos.