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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

How this got made: the award-winning 2017 Best of Chicago issue cover

Posted By and on 08.14.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Danielle A. Scruggs

The Chicago Reader won three awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia 2018 Awards two weeks ago. Among them was the honorable mention painters Shelby Rodeffer and Julian Baker at Finer Signs—together with former director of photography Danielle A. Scruggs and me, the paper's graphic designer—received for the cover design for our 2017 Best of Chicago issue. The cover depicted a mural on the wall of the Polish-Korean restaurant Kimski in Bridgeport, painted by the Finer Signs team and photographed by Danielle. The process began with a chance meeting. But it was brought to completion by our team.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Who or what is that on the Reader’s Pitchfork cover this year? Here are your answers.

Posted By on 07.19.18 at 03:19 PM

click image The answer key for our Pitchfork contest - JASON WYATT FREDERICK
  • Jason Wyatt Frederick
  • The answer key for our Pitchfork contest

What do Rahm Emanuel, Steve Albini, and Lauryn Hill have in common?

Not much, but all three make cameo appearances on this week's cover illustration for the Reader's Pitchfork Music Festival preview. Artist Jason Wyatt Frederick depicted 31 people, places, or things to identify, including artists playing Pitchfork this weekend and a few beloved Chicago locations. Click on the image above to enlarge it—each character that isn't a false lead is marked with a number.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Photographer Pat Nabong climbed to new heights for our cover story—literally

Posted By on 06.15.18 at 06:00 AM

Photographer Pat Nabong (in gray shirt and black pants) top rope climbs to shoot Abhijeet Rane and Jforpaydotcom, while Siyang Huang is belaying Nabong, below.
  • Photographer Pat Nabong (in gray shirt and black pants) top rope climbs to shoot Abhijeet Rane and Jforpaydotcom, while Siyang Huang is belaying Nabong, below.
This week's issue features photographer Pat Nabong's sweeping photographs of Brooklyn Boulder's Chicago's annual Out to Climb event.

Nabong elected to take her shots while aerial—top-rope climbing as she documented the event, which raised money for the Howard Brown Health Center.

The photojournalism fellow at City Bureau—whose has also done high-risk assignments like documenting protests in the Philippines—proves that neither a fear of falling nor water cannons can get in her way.  (More of  her work can be seen at

Here are her answers to some questions about her work:

How long have you been climbing and how did you get started?

I've been climbing regularly for almost five months now. My friend introduced me to climbing and I was hooked. I had only climbed once before when I was a little kid and I was so terrified, I couldn’t even rappel down.

Have you photographed while climbing before and do you have other experiences shooting from tough vantage points?

Pat Nabong
  • Pat Nabong
This is my second time photographing while climbing and my first time top roping while photographing. The first time I did it, I was photographing people who were bouldering, wherein people climb shorter walls without ropes. I had to climb to the top and hang there for a minute while photographing the climber below me. Those two experiences are so far the most unstable and scariest for me, because even after climbing for five months, I’m still paranoid about the possibility of falling. It’s something that I haven’t quite gotten over yet.
Other than that, the most challenging vantage points I’ve shot from was probably in the middle of a protest in the Philippines. When I was starting out in photojournalism, I covered a lot of protests there, some of which were quite chaotic. One time, I was taking pictures near clashing protesters and police. Water cannons were being fired. I’ve also experienced taking pictures inside a claustrophobic mine.

Why is climbing meaningful to you personally?

Climbing got me through a lot of hard times and taught me lot about life. Through practicing, I learned how to take calculated risks, stop overthinking, overcome my fears, and be more resilient— lessons that were applicable to life outside the climbing gym, too.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Anne Ford, the Reader’s Studs Terkel, reveals her secrets: ‘It’s all being curious’

Posted By on 06.08.18 at 09:03 AM

Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week's Chicagoan is . . . Anne Ford, who after 190 columns is bidding the project farewell.
"In desperation, I thought, what if I edited all together [these] wonderful quotes, would my editor be interested in a Studs Terkel approach?" - TOM MICHAS; SOPHIA PORTER: HAIR AND MAKEUP
  • Tom Michas; Sophia Porter: hair and makeup
  • "In desperation, I thought, what if I edited all together [these] wonderful quotes, would my editor be interested in a Studs Terkel approach?"

I was going to write a profile of this guy whose name I can't remember who was and possibly still is a private tutor. He was a very colorful guy. For some reason, I got really stuck. He was a great talker. But I couldn't get myself to write this profile. In desperation, I thought, what if I edited all together his wonderful quotes, would my editor be interested in a Studs Terkel approach? From there, I floated the idea of it being a regular thing.

Sometimes I think of a person I've always wanted to talk to. Then I cold-call them. I run into people at parties and they happen to mention what they do. And I go, rrrooww. Like the firefighter. I was sitting next to him at a dinner party. I started asking very dumb questions, like do you slide down a pole? He said, no, that is a good way for people to fall through and hurt themselves.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Lisagor and more, or some stories that other Chicago media types also thought were great

Posted By on 05.14.18 at 06:00 AM

The original Lisagor, Chicago Daily News correspondent Peter, whose mug now adorns those plaques - CHICAGO SUN-TIMES PRINT COLLECTION
  • Chicago Sun-Times print collection
  • The original Lisagor, Chicago Daily News correspondent Peter, whose mug now adorns those plaques

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Devoted Reader readers (aka our moms) may have noticed that we took home a few plaques from the annual Chicago Headline Club Lisagor awards last Friday night. (Our moms got a more detailed blow-by-blow account yesterday.) The Lisagors are, like just about every other industry award, one of those things that are of some interest to a very small group of people and of zero interest at all to just about anybody else.

However, the Lisagors do give us an excuse to revisit some past stories that were celebrated by the Chicago journalism community:

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Reader wins five awards from the Chicago Headline Club

Posted By on 05.12.18 at 01:16 PM

The Chicago Reader won five prizes at the 41st annual Peter Lisagor Awards Friday night. The contest is presented by the Chicago Headline Club.

The paper won all five categories for which it was a finalist: in-depth reporting; feature reporting; education reporting; photography; and arts reporting and criticism.

Here are the winning journalists and their work:

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Monday, April 23, 2018

How we got all those pot leaves for our #420Day issue

Posted By on 04.23.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Marzena Abrahamik

How to illustrate our annual pot issue?

It would have been easy to take a picture of a giant bud and call it a day, but we also wanted something to tie several stories together while visualizing the mood enhancing effects of marijuana. So we decided to do a still life with common elements to illustrate each story. For that, we needed some pot leaves.

Having photographer Marzena Abrahamik the shoot the still life in a studio was an easy choice; she has a fantastic eye for color and composition and was able to take it in the direction we had been discussing. 

We dug up props to illustrate the stories.

For the cover, we used an acrylic lamp in the shape of a pot leaf.


Other props included a wolf for our story on flamed-out "cannabis candidate" Benjamin Thomas Wolf, an ashtray shaped like Illinois for the story on Governor Buzzkill Bruce Rauner and his opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana. A piece of broccoli and apple hollowed out were used to illustrate our story on culinary cannabis (they were used as pipes during a gourmet dinner).

What we couldn’t find were fake pot leaves that were the right size and color. So we made our own.

We printed them out on sheets of paper in a color that blended with the rest of the props, and then went to the Harold Washington Library Makers Space to use a laser cutter the center has for public use. With the help of the friendly staff at the space, who helped set up the machine, we were able to create a pile of pot leaves that was just right for the still life.

Best of all, it was free.

  • Jamie Ramsay

  • Jamie Ramsay/Chicago Reader
  • Jamie Ramsay

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Read the great Reader stories nominated for journalism awards Thursday

Posted By on 04.13.18 at 12:35 PM

The Chicago Reader was nominated for several Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago Headline Club Thursday night.

Also Thursday, a Reader story on Chicago police in public schools was named one of  five finalists for the 2018 Richard H. Driehaus Awards for Investigative Reporting.

Both contests will announced their winners in May.

Here are the stories that were nominated:

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Reader’s greatest—and now most obsolete—treasure

Posted By on 03.13.18 at 09:00 AM

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

This object, gentle readers, is a Rolodex. It was used by our elders to store addresses, phone numbers, Hotmail e-mail addresses, and other important contact information—and sometimes sensitive information like employee social security numbers. In the olden days, they put all this information on little cards, then arranged them in this contraption in alphabetical order. If you were looking for somebody, you turned the knob on the side and all the cards rolled. Hence Rolodex. The size of one's Rolodex was believed to be roughly proportional to one's klout.

The Reader had three Rolodexes, kept in the editor's office on the administrative assistant's desk, because one was not enough to contain the paper's collective knowledge of people's whereabouts. They now live in the Reader editor's office, although most of the contact information is now obsolete. As best I can tell from a quick flip through, the keeper of the Rolodexes stopped making updates around 2006, which was two office moves ago. Still, it's pretty cool to know you have access to what were once Studs Terkel and Matt Groening's phone numbers.




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Monday, March 5, 2018

Here's how we made our Towkio cover with aliens dancing on the moon

Posted By on 03.05.18 at 12:43 PM

Contributing photographer Lisa Predko, in her own words in an Instagram post, noted she "was SUPER excited" to shoot Chicago’s own Towkio for the cover story in the Reader last week. Bonus: for the shoot he would be "WEARING AN ASTRONAUT SUIT!!!:) :) :)" she noted.

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