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American OZ – Living the Life by Micheal Sean Comeford (MSJ83)

Classic Amusement owner George D’Olivo is a former pro-wrestler who went by Beautiful Bo Paradise in his pro-wrestling days. It didn’t take him long to figure out that a journalist working in his carnival was problematic. Carnivals are about fantasies. Journalists crush fantasies. Soon, Mr. Paradise saw me as Mr. Trouble in Paradise.

Mike in front of rollercoaster.
Michael Sean Comerford

No carnival owner will hire a writer like you, he said. And the “new face” of the American carny is a seasonal Mexican migrant worker. You don’t speak Spanish. Your traveling carnival project, he said, wasn’t well thought out. He may have even used the word “stupid.”

The more problems he raised, surprisingly, the more I felt like I was shooting sitting ducks at a carnival. Every obstacle presented a solution. Firstly, some Mexicans speak English, and I’ll get to know them. After the season ends, I’ll go to Mexico to see how they live in “winter quarters.”

If no carnival owner hires Mike the writer, then they’ll hire Mike the carny.

“Gone were the plans to spend the year with Classic,” I wrote in American OZ. “Gone too were open, honest interviews. From that morning forward, people wouldn’t know I was writing about them. Against my will, I became a spy.”

I became a “ride jockey” running rides and a “jointee” running games in California, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, and Florida – where I worked in a freak show but they didn’t let me on stage “because they didn’t see the inner freak in me.”

After the season, I journeyed down to the mostly lawless foothills of Veracruz, Mexico to meet with workers I knew up north. The small town of Tlapacoyan is a feeder town that sends most of its men north to traveling carnivals every year. As a result, it’s nearly empty of men most of the year.

Living on carnival wages, I hitchhiked 13,700 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Alaska to Florida. I became the #1 hitchhiker in North America that year. In all, I covered 21,570 miles via bus, train, and hitchhiking.

During the year, I wrote an ongoing blog for The Huffington Post, my own blog https://eyeslikecarnivals.com/, and I wrote a 2013 essay for Northwestern magazine’s column “Purple Prose” http://ow.ly/uhk750FktlS. I wrote the Purple Prose column at a McDonald’s outside the State Fair of Texas, where I was running a carnival game of dubious repute.

New York and Chicago publishing houses didn’t want a “carnival” book. And “hitchhiking” books still are publishing poison. I worked with a literary agent, but we parted ways when the big advance didn’t materialize.

Through six years of rejections and rewrites, the book grew more compelling until I self-published American OZ: An Astonishing Year Inside Traveling Carnivals at State Fairs & Festivals: Hitchhiking From California to New York, Alaska to Mexico in the summer of 2020. It remained a #1 Amazon bestseller well into this year.

The hidden core of American OZ became clearer to me with the rewrites. All the facts and quotes remained, but coworkers grew to represent the working poor, without healthcare, living in unsanitary conditions, and subject to labor abuses on the road. The stories fleshed out the humanity of people seeking love and meaning on the road. The year developed a story arc with deeper meanings and universal themes.

If I felt anxious about my loved ones far away from the carnival, I dug down to mine those feelings for American OZ. If I was tired, broke and feeling abused, it was a good guess I wasn’t the only one. American OZ took on an inner life.

It’s not that the book would not have seen the light of day without advances in self-publishing. George Orwell gained praise for writing Down and Out in Paris and London. Medill’s own practitioner of the “journalism of empathy,” Alex Kotlowicz, won the 2020 Lucas Prize for An American Summer, a chronicle of gun violence in Chicago. They successfully wrote about the harsh edges of society.

Yet it was the long, hard road writing American OZ that taught me that living the life made writing the life come to life.

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Journalists Katherine Lewis and Chandra Thomas Whitfield awarded Medill Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellowship

Medill, in partnership with The Garage, Northwestern’s entrepreneurial incubator, has awarded the 2021 Medill and The Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellowship to Katherine Lewis and Chandra Thomas Whitfield.

Lewis and Whitfield are long-time journalists, having written for and worked with organizations such as Atlanta Magazine, In These Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The New York Times. They plan to use the fellowship to launch The Center for Independent Journalists (CIJ), an education, professional development, support and advocacy organization for independent journalists of color.

“BIPOC freelance journalists produce outstanding work and often struggle to make a living, with few resources centering on our needs,” said Lewis. “Journalists of color and women are more likely to build careers independently, and are frequently exploited and underpaid. The pandemic exacerbated this trend. CIJ will provide education in business development, cash flow, contracts, negotiation, prioritization and time management, as well as community support and mentorship.”

“We need to continually innovate to overcome the obstacles facing contemporary media, particularly on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “That is why talented entrepreneurs like Katherine and Chandra are so important and why Medill is proud to support them in their efforts.”

The one-year fellowship supports entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups—with an emphasis on women and people of color—who are working on innovation in the media industry. As part of the fellowship, Lewis and Whitfield will receive an $80,000 stipend for the year, and access to a variety of resources across Northwestern at Medill, The Garage, the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the University at-large to help them to continue to expand their work.

“I know it sounds cliché but words cannot adequately express what it means to me as a veteran journalist to not only be acknowledged by — but to also be affiliated with — the Medill School and The Garage at Northwestern University,” said Whitfield. “It is an honor, a privilege and definitely a highlight of my career. This is more than just a professional development opportunity for Katherine and me; it is also an opportunity for us to channel our passion, concerns and many years of journalism experience into creating an organization that we firmly believe can fill a huge void and address a long unaddressed need in our industry.”

Throughout its journalism and integrated marketing communications programs, Medill emphasizes the importance of technological innovation and telling the stories of diverse audiences.

The Garage at Northwestern is a community and physical space for every Northwestern student interested in entrepreneurship to learn, iterate and grow. The 11,000 square foot space, carved out of the North Campus parking structure, is currently home to more than 60 student-founded startups and projects.

“Katherine and Chandra are accomplished, seasoned journalists and promising entrepreneurs,” said Melissa Kaufman, founding executive director of The Garage. “We look forward to helping them launch their venture and welcoming them as a resource to our student-founders.”

“Out of an impressive field of candidates, Katherine and Chandra stood out not only for their accomplishments, but for their focus on supporting journalists in the evolving media ecosystem through The Center for Independent Journalists,” said Mike Raab, associate director at The Garage, who helped to select Lewis and Whitfield.

Katherine Lewis

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is an award-winning journalist and author based in the Washington, D.C. area who writes about education, equity, mental health, parenting, science and social justice for publications including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Parents and The Washington Post. Her 2015 story on the school-to-prison pipeline became Mother Jones’ most-read article ever, and led to her bestselling 2018 book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever — And What to Do About It.” Her current long-form narrative project on racial justice in education is supported by the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism and the MIT Knight Science Journalism fellowship. As a biracial journalist (Asian American and White), she’s been active in the Asian American Journalists Association for more than 20 years. Before becoming a freelancer in 2008, she worked as a national correspondent for Newhouse News Service and Bloomberg News.

Chandra Thomas Whitfield

Chandra Thomas Whitfield is a multiple award-winning multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of media outlets, including NBCNews.com, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Undefeated, Essence, Ebony, People, Newsweek, The Root, The Grio, TIME.com, NPR.org and the Atlanta affiliate of NPR. As a 2019-2020 Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Journalism Fellow, she served as host and producer of “In The Gap,” a podcast for In These Times magazine about how the gender pay gap affects the lives — and livelihoods — of Black women in America. Whitfield has also been named “Journalist of the Year” by both the Atlanta Press Club and the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists and received honors from the Association for Women in Communications, the Colorado Association of Black Journalists and Mental Health America. A proud New Orleans native and Clark Atlanta University graduate, she is also an alum of a diverse mix of  other journalism fellowship programs, including with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, the Education Writers Association, Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, Soros Justice Media, Kiplinger Public Affairs at the Ohio State University, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism programs, respectively. A feature story that she penned for Atlanta Magazine made the Atlanta Press Club’s “Atlanta’s Top 10 Favorite Stories of the Past 50 Years” list and it is also widely credited with contributing to a change in Georgia law and a teen’s early release from a 10-year prison sentence.

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Richard “Dick” Stolley (BSJ52, MSJ53)

Alumnus Dick Stolley Dies at 92

Stolley is remembered as a magazine industry legend and founder of PEOPLE magazine

Watch a video of Dick Stolley talking about his Medill experience. 

Richard “Dick” Stolley (BSJ52, MSJ53) died peacefully in Evanston, Illinois, on June 16 with his family at his side. He was 92. Stolley was a member of the inaugural class of the Medill Hall of Achievement of 1997 and a member of Medill’s Board of Advisers since its first meeting in 1984.

Stolley is remembered for his many historic career endeavors in magazine publishing and editing. At Medill, he is revered as a true friend and dedicated alumnus who was always willing to talk to and mentor students and alumni.

“Dick was not only a towering figure in 20th century journalism, he was a tremendous friend and supporter of Medill,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “The talks he gave to students about his legendary career were riveting. He generously lent his time and talent to every Medill dean who called upon him. He will be sorely missed.”

Dick Stolley talking to Cherubs
Stolley speaking to the Medill Cherubs on July 23, 2015. Photo credit: Sarahmaria Gomez

Stolley was the founding editor of PEOPLE magazine and a longtime writer and editor for Time Inc.

In a statement provided by Dan Wakeford, editor in chief of People, Wakeford said:

“Dick Stolley was a legendary editor whose vision and execution established the most successful magazine of all time that America fell in love with. He was an amazing journalist whose work and magazine craft we still refer to every day at PEOPLE as it’s still so relevant. He wrote in his first editor’s letter in 1974, ‘PEOPLE will focus entirely on the active personalities of our time-in all fields. On the headliners, the stars, the important doers, the comers, and on plenty of ordinary men and women caught up in extraordinary situations.’ And that is what we still do nearly 50 years later — we tell stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and extraordinary people doing ordinary things. I’m indebted to Dick for creating a magazine with heart that is a force for good and continues to change millions of lives.”

Stolley is also remembered for his work for Life magazine, where he pushed boundaries in his coverage of the fight for Civil Rights in the South and, most historically, for his success in obtaining the Abraham Zapruder footage of the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963.

Stolley described his first interaction with Zapruder in an article in Time magazine in 2013. Stolley explained that he located Zapruder by finding his listed number in the Dallas phone book.

“He politely explained that he was exhausted and overcome by what he had witnessed,” Stolley wrote. “The decision I made next turned out to be quite possibly the most important of my career. In the news business, sometimes you push people hard, unsympathetically, without obvious remorse (even while you may be squirming inside). Sometimes, you don’t. This, I felt intuitively, was one of those times you don’t push. I reminded myself: This man had watched a murder. I said I understood. Clearly relieved, Zapruder asked me to come to his office at 9 the next morning.”

Eventually, he was able to secure Zapruder’s footage for Life magazine for $50,000. That amount was bumped to $150,000 a week later to add additional rights for the magazine’s use of the film.

Stolley helped create PEOPLE magazine in 1973.  A test issue with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton gracing the cover “flew off the newsstands,” Stolley said in a 2015 interview, and the magazine launched in March 1974 with Stolley as editor.

“The one thing that I’ve always wanted to say, when we started, I said, this is not a celebrity magazine. This is personality journalism,” he said. “And we will be doing stories all over the world, which we did and still do, and it will be on all people in all walks of life. Some will be well known, some will not. Our motto was, ‘extraordinary people doing ordinary things, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’ And the formula worked then and still does.”

“Richard Stolley was a giant among journalists, one of the Medill School’s most accomplished alumni of all time,” said Roger Boye, associate professor emeritus-in-service. “His coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963 for Life magazine, as well as of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s, will serve as models of initiative and professionalism for generations of journalists to come.  His entrepreneurial vision helped to bring about the founding of People magazine in 1974, with Dick as the magazine’s first managing editor.  He championed great story telling in journalism but only with meticulous attention to detail and total factual accuracy.  That is perhaps his greatest legacy.”

In addition to his roles at People magazine, Stolley was assistant managing editor and managing editor of Life magazine, as well as director of special projects for Time Inc.

Source: Medill and PEOPLE.com 6/17/2021
https://people.com/human-interest/richard-stolley-peoples-first-managing-editor-dies-at-92/

The family requests that gifts in memory of Dick Stolley be directed to the Medill School. Gifts may be made online or mailed to:

Northwestern University
Alumni Relations and Development, Gift Services
1201 Davis Street – Suite 1-400
Evanston, IL 60208-4410

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Medill Alums Win 2021 Pulitzer Prizes, Individual and Teams

Michael Paul Williams (MSJ81), a veteran journalist and longtime columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, has won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary.

The Pulitzer board honored Williams for his “penetrating and historically insightful columns that led Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city’s monuments to white supremacy.”

Williams has been at the Richmond Times-Dispatch for nearly 39 years and has been a columnist for the paper since 1992.

Read more: https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/michael-paul-williams-richmond-va-times-dispatch

Abbie VanSickle head shot.
Abbie VanSickle

Three Medill graduates, Abbie VanSickle (BSJ04) and Katie Park (BSJ12) from the Marshall Project and Dana Brozost-Kelleher (MSJ19) from the Invisible Institute, Chicago, were on the winning teams for National Reporting, along with the staff of AL.com, Birmingham and the IndyStar, Indianapolis. The National Reporting Pulitzer was awarded for a year-long series: “Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons.” The investigation focused on K-9 units and the damage that police dogs inflict on Americans, including innocent citizens and police officers, prompted numerous statewide reforms.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their experiences with us,” VanSickle said. “This work wouldn’t be possible without our sources. I’m so fortunate to be part of such a great collaboration across newsrooms. It gives me a lot of hope in the future of our profession.”

Katie Park head shot.
Katie Park

“The injuries and terror faced by victims of police dog attacks are truly horrifying — it was crucial to us to convey the seriousness of these attacks while being sensitive to the trauma people have undergone,” Park said. “I’m so proud to work at an organization that not only prioritizes in-depth reporting but also recognizes the immense value of visual and data-driven storytelling. It’s an honor to work alongside such talented and thoughtful journalists.”

Read more about the series. https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/06/11/the-marshall-project-wins-the-pulitzer-prize

https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/staffs-marshall-project-alcom-birmingham-indystar-indianapolis-and-invisible-institute

Finally, numerous Medill MSJ 2020 alumni were on the winning team for Public Service at the New York Times (Maura Turcotte, Alison Saldanha, Sarah Cahalan and Brandon Dupre, Matt Craig, Alison Saldanha, Brandon Dupré, Sarah Cahalan and Maura Turcotte continue to work with us on the data project. Maddie Burakoff, Jake Holland, Alex Schwartz, Andrea Michelson and Samone Blair, Mitch Smith).

The public service Pulitzer was awarded for courageous, prescient and sweeping coverage of the coronavirus pandemic that exposed racial and economic inequities, government failures in the U.S. and beyond, and filled a data vacuum that helped local governments, healthcare providers, businesses and individuals to be better prepared and protected.

Read more: https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/new-york-times-6

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Judy Lyn Holland (MSJ87)

Judy Lyn Holland, 61, of Washington, D.C. passed away on April 19, 2021.

She was born Aug. 7, 1959, in Orange Heights, VT, the daughter of Harry and Barbara Holland of Hanover, NH and Vero Beach, FL. Judy was born in the family station wagon en route to the hospital, portending a life in constant motion. From a very young age, Judy adored books and kept a flashlight under the bed covers to read at night. She also displayed an early aptitude for performance and enlisted neighborhood children to put on shows in the family garage with a blanket as stage curtains. She later became an accomplished figure skater and continued to perform in college and as an adult.

She attended Hanover High School and graduated in 1977. Her first summer job was as a cashier at Dan & Whit’s General Store on the same block in Norwich, VT where she grew up. She continued her education at Middlebury College, where she graduated with a BA in 1981. From there, Judy taught English at a boarding school in Germany and studied Italian in Florence, becoming fluent in both languages. She worked as a paralegal in a New York City law firm before earning her master’s degree in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

During her 30-year journalism career, Judy was a newspaper reporter at the Valley News Dispatch in Tarentum, Pa. and the Tampa Tribune in Florida before moving to Washington, DC to become a Capitol Hill correspondent for States News Service. She spent 13 years covering the US Senate and as national bureau editor at Hearst Newspapers, the storied newspaper chain that includes the Houston and San Francisco Chronicles and the Boston Globe. She won the Hearst Eagle Award, the chain’s highest honor. Judy was elected president of the National Press Club Foundation and was a member of the Capitol Speakers Club. She also appeared as a political commentator on cable TV news. Her stories appeared in dozens of publications.

She also was the founder and editor of parentinsider.com, an online magazine about parenting teens and wrote the book and podcast series HappiNest: Finding Fulfillment When Your Kids Leave Home.

Judy met her husband John K. Starr, an orthopedic surgeon, in 1982, when he was a medical student. They were together for nearly 40 years, married since 1990. Her true pride and joy were her beloved children, whom she taught determination, poise and empathy.

Judy is survived by her husband John, children Lindsay, 27, Maddie, 24, and Jack, 22, her parents; sister Mary Anne Holland, brothers Michael (Heidi); Joe (Becky); and Jim (Analea); sister-in-law Patricia Starr; nieces Jeannie, Greta, Hazel, Lizzie and Juniper; nephews Michael, Timothy, Hunter, Jake and Anders; maternal uncle, Don Johnston (Mary Margaret) and paternal uncle, Clark Holland.

Published in Valley News on May 2, 2021.

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/vnews/obituary.aspx?n=judy-lyn-holland&pid=198511455&fhid=2167

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VICE News Reporters awarded the 2020 James Foley Medill Medal for Courage

VICE News reporters Isobel Yeung, Zach Caldwell, Mahmud Mousa, Jackie Jesko and Tarek Turkey have been awarded the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for their coverage of the human rights crisis in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-controlled province, during the

country’s ongoing civil war. Their report, “Battle for Idlib,” a segment from season one of VICE on Showtime, paints a tragic picture of the recent increase in bombings by Syria’s government and its Russian allies.

“There was some truly impressive work submitted for this year’s Foley Award. However, the reporting that Isobel Yeung and her colleagues at Vice News did in Syria rose above the rest,” says judge Brett Pulley (MSJ87), Bloomberg’s Atlanta bureau chief and Medill Board of Advisers member. “Their story of the battle for the last rebel stronghold in Syria is compelling, gruesome and heartbreaking. With Yeung leading the way, they put themselves on the ground in the most dangerous area of the country, amidst chaos, rebel militias and artillery fire, and courageously delivered a report that detailed the government’s bombing of the region and the humanitarian crisis it has created.”

Through a combination of interviews, flight data and cockpit recordings, Yeung and her team proved that government-issued airstrikes were deliberately targeting unarmed civilians, and were doing so with high-tech backing from Russian air support.

“Isobel Yeung and her team braved fighter jet and drone attacks in Idlib to tell the devastating story of Syrian government warfare against its own people, including children,” says judge and Medill faculty member Ceci Rodgers. “Their story was as impactful as it was immersive.”

The bravery demonstrated by Yeung and her colleagues embodies the spirit of Medill alumnus James Foley, the award’s namesake, who was captured while reporting in Syria in 2012 and killed by ISIS extremists in 2014.

“Her interviews with children reminded me strongly of James Foley’s reporting from Libya and Syria,” says judge and Medill Professor Ellen Shearer, Washington bureau chief and co-director of the Medill National Security Journalism initiative. “He felt it was so important for journalists to show the cost of war on the civilian population. Isobel reminded me of Jim in her passion for the truth and compassion for the people.”

Since the segment’s publication, Yeung’s team has been contacted by the United Nations and human rights organizations to provide first-hand testimonies of the war crimes they witnessed so legal action can be taken in international courts.

Honorable Mention

This year’s honorable mention also won high praise from the judges. In “When can we really rest?” published on April 2, 2020 in The California Sunday Magazine, Nadja Drost crossed the Darien Gap with fellow reporters Bruno Federico and Carlos Villalón, who contributed photos to the story.

Named for the 66-mile break in the Pan-American Highway, The Darien Gap is roughly 10,000 square miles of dense rainforest on the border between Colombia and Panama. Drost and her colleagues walked 4 to 6 miles a day alongside groups of migrants from Cameroon, Pakistan, Ghana, Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The reporting project was supported by the Pulitzer Center, and included a series for the PBS NewsHour by Drost and Federico.

The team put their lives in the hands of smuggler guides in an uninhabited, remote region, facing many of the same risks migrants did, including frequent assault, armed robbery, food shortage, drowning and even murder.

“It was chilling to find out that pretty much every group that was ahead of us or behind us had either been robbed or sexually assaulted,” Drost says. “There was a moment near the end of the trip when I realized this was a really bad situation. People had not eaten for days and days. We have to get out of here by tonight or tomorrow, maximum.”

 

 

About the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism

The medal is given for work published during a calendar year to an individual or team of journalists, working for a U.S.-based media outlet, who best displayed moral, physical, ethical, financial or political courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories.

 

The selection committee included Bloomberg’s Atlanta Bureau Chief and Medill Board of Advisers member Brett Pulley, Medill Professor Emeritus Donna Leff, Medill Director of Global Journalism Learning Ceci Rodgers, and Medill National Security Journalism Initiative Co-Director Ellen Shearer.

The 2019 award was given to Azam Ahmed, New York Times bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, for his 2019 investigation of gang murder across Latin America. In his series “Kill, or Be Killed: Latin America’s Homicide Crisis,” Ahmed chronicled the rampant and unchecked gang violence in the region.

 

 

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Petco CMO Tariq Hassan (IMC94) joins Medill Board of Advisers

Tariq Hassan chief marketing officer at Petco, has joined the Board of Advisers for Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

As CMO, Hassan leads Petco’s enterprise marketing strategy, dedicated to providing customers with a seamless omnichannel pet care experience. With more than 20 years working in global marketing strategy, communications, innovation as well as insights, Hassan leads the development and sustainment of long-lasting relationships between pet parents and the rearchitected Petco brand – which was instrumental in the company’s successful IPO in January 2021.

As a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, and firm believer in the power of the arts, Hassan sits on the board of directors for Education for Employment, a non-governmental organization dedicated to empowering marginalized youth across the Middle East and North Africa through vocational training and job placement; as well as on the board of Noor, a woman-founded and -led community theater organization. Additionally, Hassan worked with the Obama administration on efforts to counter-message young Americans at risk of religious extremism and systemic discrimination.

“I’m thrilled to have Tariq join our Board of Advisers,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “Aside from his vast knowledge of brand strategy and communications, Tariq also brings to the Board a passion for diversity and inclusion initiatives that I know will benefit the work that Medill is doing in this area.”

“As an alum, it’s an honor to join Medill’s Board of Advisers, and give back to the organization that provided me with the marketing communications skills and values I leverage to this day,” said Hassan. “As marketplace expectations and society at large continue to evolve, it’s never been more important to work with industry leaders like Medill’s talented Board of Advisers to help the next generation of journalists and marketing communications professionals succeed in a purposeful and equitable manner.”

Hassan holds an honors bachelor’s degree in international political science and philosophy from the University of Western Ontario and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Medill.

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Investigative journalist Katie Engelhart honored with Medill’s John Bartlow Martin Award

Katie Engelhart is the recipient of Medill’s 2021 John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism. She was honored for “What Happened in Room 10?” an investigation into the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, which was host to the first COVID-19 hot spot in the United States. Her story was published in August 2020 by The California Sunday Magazine.

“In this remarkable work of investigative reporting and storytelling, Katie Engelhart has created the definitive narrative account of the first COVID-19 hot spot in the United States,” says Douglas McGray editor-in-chief of Pop-Up Magazine Productions, which publishes The California Sunday Magazine. “Her work reconstructs the confusion, chaos and fear of the very first days of the pandemic and exposes both how ill-prepared we were and how we take care of our elderly.”

To conduct her research, Engelhart had to collect intimate and detailed information from dozens of sources across the country, filing Freedom of Information requests and seeking out photos, videos and even architectural plans of the Life Care Center because she wasn’t able to enter the facility during lockdown.

“I had to find visual cues where I could,” said Engelhart. “Whether that was at the beginning getting a floorplan of the nursing home and trying to map out who was where and where different nurses were working to getting people to send me pictures and little videos of loved ones. What was chaotic was that I started working on this when we were still in the really early days of the pandemic. So especially at the beginning in May, people weren’t available to talk.”

In addition to the hurdles presented by the pandemic itself, Engelhart faced further challenges because many of the Life Care Center residents had some form of cognitive impairment. She interviewed some of those residents, but needed to supplement the those conversations with lengthy interviews with caregivers. Further complicating the investigation was the fact that Life Care was being sued, meaning very few staff were comfortable giving interviews.

“It’s an incredible honor to win this award,” Engelhart said. “Long before I fell in love with the art of writing, I believed in journalism as a form of public service. So to have a piece recognized specifically for its service to the public is enormously meaningful. I spoke with dozens of people who lived in the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, whose loved ones lived there, who worked there, who are connected with the nursing home somehow, and they placed an enormous amount of trust in me to tell their story so I hope that this award reaches them, too, and they can feel like they helped to contribute. I hope this is a piece that will help to explain an important part of what this pandemic has been for the country.”

Patti Wolter, the contest chair and Medill’s Helen Gurley Brown Magazine Professor, was truly impressed by the caliber of the submissions for this year’s awards given the added obstacles journalists faced due to the pandemic.

“Engelhart’s piece was chosen because this story masterfully integrates narration and exposition to create a fast-paced and riveting read. It not only illuminates the early days of the pandemic but also expertly educates us on an entire history and understanding of nursing homes, profits and regulations in this country,” said Wolter. “The circumstances of COVID-19 and this facility in particular are devastating, but Engelhart’s storytelling is compassionate, thorough and visual. It brings a level of humanity to our understanding of COVID and will serve as a revealing record for decades to come.”

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Linda Saran Remembers her Father, Medill Alumnus Sam Saran (BSJ50, MSJ50)

My Father was a complex man.  Unlike most of us, who try to conceal our flaws, he wore them prominently and proudly on his sleeve.  Who you saw was who you got.

He was a professional’s professional.  In the journalism world, he was the logistics reporter for any story he covered, never wavering in the chaos.  In the corporate world, he was the eye of the storm in a crisis.  He never shied from making decisions and doling orders.  The many accomplishments throughout his colorful career are summarized in his obituary.

Here, I will focus on, and celebrate, “Sam the Family Man”.  He and my dear mother Dena provided support to four generations.  As the children of immigrants, they gave to the best of their ability.  They always looked for needs and tried to fill them.

My Father showed, and stepped, up in any number of ways:  chief copy editor, career counselor, math tutor, 4th of July bike decorator, and letter writer on birthdays, holidays and during college years.

And then there were the fun and funny moments.

One Easter we opened what looked like a wooden toolbox, only to find a white poodle puppy, Si-Bon.  When we were little, we got airplane and horseback rides or, we got carried through the house while he called out something silly.

We had the blessing of watching him do the same with his grandchildren Thomas, Effie, Marina & Dena.  He loved to get down on the floor and give them horseback rides, build all kinds of architectural buildings, including the Acropolis, churches, libraries, the Arlington Race Track and whole little communities.  He loved practicing golf with them on the putting mat and looked forward to the annual fishing outing at Luther Village in Arlington Heights.  If my sister Laurie was in town, she had the dubious honor of preparing the hooks!  He taught the grandchildren the Greek alphabet, numbers, and many words.

One of my fondest memories is Saturday mornings in Sauganash.  Each Saturday, Dad would record his financial program from our den.  Laurie and I would beg to come in and he would let us, provided we were quiet.  Each Saturday, all it would take was one look, one mouthing of some provocatory sentence or one poke and the giggles would set in, uncontrollably.  Of course, they started silent, then rumbled through our bodies until they gasped out into the air.  We got a few “takes” and eventually, were dismissed.  Until next Saturday.  I’ve no idea how much time our shenanigans added to his process, but it sure was fun!

Another fond memory is of the Winter hockey playoffs.  Dad, my brother Don and I would follow the Chicago Black Hawks.  We had our own playoff on the tabletop game set up on the oversized marble coffee table in the den.  It was very competitive!  My parents were way ahead of their time in not limiting any one of us by gender.  So, I leaned in and played my little heart out and nobody let me win.  Yet, sometimes I did!  As I look back, that was a great training ground for many of the corporate antics I would later encounter throughout my career.  Dad supported Don’s hockey sport, which he took up.  Sometimes, they would skate at the park together.

They also shared a passion for music, particularly jazz.  All three of us took piano lessons, but Don was the gifted pianist.  Dad put on album after album and Don could start playing the piece by ear.  Mom played the piano, too.  Although Dad early dabbled at the guitar, he had always wanted to learn to play piano.

Dad always took an interest in Laurie’s and my musical ventures, our church and other choral groups, Laurie’s musicals and theatrical performances, and my CD’s recorded for Roy.  He also supported my artwork endeavors.  Laurie and Dad enjoyed watching all kinds of sports together, and once attended the Western Open Golf tournament.

As Greeks, we were all about our food, food, food!  Sunday after church meals at restaurants with our cousins and family friends.  Lockwood Castle sparklers for our birthdays.  Lou Malnati’s pizza.  Biasetti’s hamburgers.  Greek lamb wrapped in white paper at Easter, with the best feta and bread.  Coffeecake for Sunday breakfast.  Homemade Greek delicacies.  The funniest holiday tradition was at the Thanksgiving table, which was packed with our cousins and a few of my college friends who couldn’t get home.  We would take turns telling jokes just as a friend was taking a bite of the Kourabiedes…and wait for the powdered sugar to fly!  Tough crowd…

Our family saw much of the U.S.A, sometimes in a Chevrolet and other cars, and by plane.  Many vacations spent in Estes Park with our cousins and other family friends…California, the East Coast and others.  Among our most memorable in the early ‘60’s:  I was about five when we flew to New York.  Our sedan rental ended up being a mustang, which barely accommodated the five of us and our luggage.  It was unbelievably hot with no air conditioning.  Bodies and bags filled every square inch of that sports car.  It was on that trip that I developed my love of red MGs.  Back in the day of non-hovercraft parents, mine let cousin Zoe and her boyfriend, Tony, “adopt” me for the week, taking me to the beach, for subs and the carnival all in…you guessed it…Tony’s red MG.  We Sarans are all about our cars.  Dad purchased his last one in January 2020 and drove it to pick up his Mariano’s groceries just months before his passing.

One of our most memorable family vacations almost didn’t happen.  In 1984, I had tickets to join my parents in Greece, where they were celebrating their anniversary.  I got the idea to have Don and Laurie come as a surprise.  We hustled to make it happen.  I remember Don and I scrambling downtown to get his passport.  We barely made it in time for the flight, where Laurie was waiting for us.  Not to sound archaic, but that pre-dated cell phones so all of this drama happened with out communication or updates!  I asked my parents to meet me outside their hotel.  I remember walking toward them and, just as we met, Don and Laurie casually stepped out from behind a tree into our path.  They were shocked!  Of course, it never occurred to us we could give one of them a heart attack!

Among my fondest memories are of watching my parents dance, which they did any chance they got.  They could cut a rug with the best of them and lit up the dance floor!  They would both beam as they moved in synch with ease.  Now that Dad also has received his “angel” wings they’re doing a different kind of dance.

Godspeed, Dad…

Linda Saran 2021
Northwestern University B.A./M.S.C.

 

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Margaret “Margo” Gordon (BSJ61, MSJ62)

Alumna and former Medill faculty member Margaret “Margo” Gordon died peacefully on April 1, 2021 in Seattle.

Gordon was born in Dixon, Ill. While in high school, she attended the Medill Cherubs summer program. After graduation from Aurora High School, she was awarded a scholarship to attend Northwestern and would go on to have a lifelong affiliation with the University. She earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Medill and then a Ph.D. in sociology, also at Northwestern. She later served as a professor at Medill and, from 1980 to 1988, as director of the Center for Urban Affairs.

Between her various degrees, she spent three years in Nsukka, Nigeria with her first husband, Halfdan Johnson. While there, Margo helped students at the University of Nigeria start a student-run newspaper, the “Nsukka Record,” the first of its kind. It is still published today as “The Record,” a major national Nigerian newspaper. She also lived for a year in Aarhus, Denmark and worked as a reporter and editor for the Chattanooga Times and the St. Petersburg Times before returning to Evanston to complete her Ph.D.

In one of her classes, she met Andy Gordon. They married soon after and both went on to spend nearly 20 years as professors and, in Margo’s case, as a university administrator, at Northwestern. During that time, Margo authored or co-authored several books, including the widely acclaimed “The Female Fear” and “The Journalism of Outrage: Investigative Reporting and Agenda Building in America.”

In 1989, Margo and Andy were recruited to the University of Washington. Margo became Dean of the Graduate School of Public Affairs (now known as the Evans School), which she directed until she retired. She was inducted into the Medill Hall of Achievement inaugural class in 1997.

Margo will be remembered for bringing out the best in people and figuring out how to support them as a friend, professor, university administrator, dean or family member.

“She left no doubt with her friends and family how much she cared about them and was always her authentic caring self,” says Andy. “Margo really did have a twinkle in her eye and an enthusiasm that was infectious. She was also tenacious and fought fiercely on behalf of journalistic values, including at the Center, where an interdisciplinary team she pulled together co-authored a book on investigative reporting,” he adds.

“From the time of my recruitment until Margo left Northwestern, she was a mentor, colleague, co-author and role model for me,” says Medill Emeritus Professor Donna Leff. “She brought me in to the Center for Urban Affairs and led a communications research group there that produced coauthored work in journalism and policy—media influence in setting social and policy agendas. Margo’s seminal early work identified the connection between media coverage of rape and the way victims of sexual violence were treated by the criminal justice system and by society more generally.” Leff adds, “Her husband Andy is right—everyone liked the always smiling Margo.”

Medill Associate Professor Emeritus George Harmon was on the full-time faculty with Gordon from 1980 to when she left for Washington. “Anyone who met Margo knew instantly that hers was an incisive and inquisitive mind, interested in nearly everything,” Harmon says. “She was a delightful, supportive colleague on the faculty. Perhaps best of all, she was constantly cheerful.”

Medill Professor Jack Doppelt marvels that Margo and Andy lived inspiring lives – “companion scholars in related fields, both revered on campus, who left indelible impressions; Margo with her uplifting nature, Andy with his robust laugh.”

Margo is survived by her husband Andy, children Sarah (Scott) and Seth (Bootsy), brother Joe (Barbara), grandchildren Carenna and Drake, and many wonderful friends and family members. Her family is grateful that they were able to be with her in her final days despite COVID-19.