The Saga of Punkin’ Donuts

“When Punkin’ Donuts was at its peak in the mid- to late 1980s, Lakeview had a rough reputation. “It was still kind of hairy,” says Dwayne Thomas, a Cabrini-Green native. “People were like, ‘Ooh, that area is kind of crazy.’ It was, like, gangbangers, drug dealers, hookers, transgender people. It was a huge melting pot.” In the punk crowd around Belmont and Clark, antiracist skinheads rolled deep. “That was our area—we felt normal in that area,” Dwayne says. “People in my neighborhood didn’t dress like that and didn’t listen to that type of music. I saw people who dressed and believed in the same things I believed in—they had the same type of convictions. We fought the same kind of causes.”

-Leor Galil, “The saga of Punkin’ Donuts.” The Chicago Reader. April 8, 2020

An interesting exploration of how one strange thing can transform a neighborhood.

Same Lake, Unequal Rates

“Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse, a Tribune analysis shows…

…And the financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed.”

—Ted Gregory, Cecilia Reyes, Patrick M. O’Connell and Angela Caputo, “Same Lake, Unequal Rates.” The Chicago Tribune. October 25, 2017.

The Story Behind the Chicago Newspaper that Bought a Bar – Topic

“By 1976, reporter Pam Zekman was well-acquainted with the everyday corruption that permeated Chicago. After all, the city was so well-known for shady dealings it birthed its own shorthand: ‘Chicago-style politics’ was used with frequency to describe boss-style rule and graft in government. 

Zekman was part of a four-person Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at the Chicago Tribune, where she had gone undercover in a nursing home, for a collections agency, in a hospital, and at a precinct polling place, exposing wrongdoings ranging from medical malpractice to election fraud. ‘We had become known for doing this kind of undercover reporting with one caveat: When there’s no other way to get the story,’ says Zekman. ‘We didn’t do it just for the idea of doing it and we did not do it cavalierly.’

When Zekman was poached by a rival paper, the feisty Chicago Sun-Times, she proposed a daring project that would go down in the annals of journalism history as both a feat of reporting and a focal point for ethics debates still raging today. For years, Zekman had been collecting tips about city employees extracting bribes from local businessmen, but couldn’t get sources to go on the record; she figured the only way to get the story would be to get inside the system. So she convinced her paper to buy a bar. They would staff it with newspaper workers, run it like any other watering hole (with some notable exceptions that included concealed photographers), and wait to see what happened.”

—Andy Wright, “The Story Behind the Chicago Newspaper that Bought a Bar.” Topic. Issue No. 4, October 2017.