This year, the South Side Weekly published nearly forty issues containing hundreds of investigations, interviews, op-eds, book reviews, profiles and more. After each production night, our editorial staff jumps into next week’s stories, hunkering down to write, edit, fact-check, illustrate, and layout our next issue. With this constant grind, there’s little time for reflection. We’d like to take the time now to look back at some of the stories from the last year that we’re must proud of.
Instead of unilaterally picking this year’s ‘best’ stories and calling it a day, we asked our editors to choose their favorite story from this year—one that caught their eye, or that they see as a quintessential Weekly story—and tell us why. In the blurbs below, our editorial staff writes about how the stories they chose reminded them of experiences from decades ago, brought to light emerging political movements in Chicago, and drove home the importance of community journalism.
We hope you enjoy this opportunity to revisit some of our favorite stories. If you’ve enjoyed our work over the year, please consider making a donation. Next year, we begin a series of public workshops to better support our mission to train community members as reporters, writers, and artists, and they’ll be completely funded by small donations from you, our readers.
Many thanks, and happy New Year,
By Christian Belanger
Christian’s account transported me immediately back to my political coming of age, which was during Harold Washington’s first campaign thirty-five years ago. Voting for “Harold” as was customary to call him, was my very first vote ever. But not only did I vote, I was part of the movement that made him a candidate. I was part of the ranks that tirelessly volunteered at his campaign offices. My mom became a deputy registrar to help increase the number of registered voters. I celebrated in the Washington victory. I mourned, and in a way am still mourning Washington’s untimely death.
The way Christian captures the moments so precisely, is what journalism and reporting are, particularly because he would have no way of knowing any of the details he chronicles considering he wasn’t even born! This is journalism and reporting. As you know (and much likely to everyone’s annoyance) my litmus test for fact-checking is not digging up some corroborating previously published document, but instead an obstinate “Because I was there and I know.” This piece passes all of “my” fact-checking standards and it may help to motivate voters and potential voters to whittle down the ridiculously long twenty-one list of mayoral hopefuls into one electable candidate. – Nicole Bond, Stage & Screen Editor
In a good school-bad school paradigm, Harper High School’s rich hundred-plus-year history risks being forgotten
By Eleanore Catolico
Lake Michigan surfers brave freezing cold—and toxic—waters, while the Surfrider Foundation sues to clean them up
By Rebecca Fanning
Chicago’s abolitionists make space for conversation after the Van Dyke trial
By Christian Belanger
In the wake of the Van Dyke trial, the Weekly wanted to provide meaningful coverage that didn’t simply rehash the traumatic facts of Laquan McDonald’s death. Abolitionism is a key part of Chicago’s, and the South Side’s, activist ecosystem, but those voices were missing in mainstream conversations. Christian tapped into this network to hear their perspectives, exploring the tension between the astonishment and peace brought by the conviction—the first of its kind in Chicago—and what it means to perpetuate the incarceration state that continues to inflict violence upon Black people. This story exemplifies the purpose of the Weekly; it was published nearly a month after the trial, documenting how communities continued to react to the news in the weeks after the verdict, versus stopping the story mere hours or days after. It was intentional: the Weekly looked for local voices and used its platform to elevate them. Finally, it continued to challenge the reader to answer—after the media excitement over the verdict faded away—in the words of abolitionist Trina Reynolds-Tyler, “What is justice for Laquan McDonald?” – Jasmine Mithani, Deputy Editor
First Presbyterian Church has fostered community gardens since the nineteenth century. Its now-former pastor nearly put an end to that
By Emeline Posner
The nineteen-year-old South Shore native sits down with the Weekly to discuss donuts, dreams, and art
By Juhi Gupta
By Nicole Bond
We need to talk racism, segregation, and income disparity, too
By Dejah Powell
A look into the artist, activist, and academic’s “alternative cultural ecology”
By Itzel Blancas
Before NTA conversion proposal, emails reveal multiyear history to the plans for a new neighborhood high school
By Daniel Moattar
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