Writing

The Elkhart Truth, Elkhart, Ind.

A few recent favorites:

Some of the people I met while helping with the "Hispanics at Home?" series. By Tim Vandenack

Some of the people I met while helping with the “Hispanics at Home?” series. By Tim Vandenack

After 25 years of growth, Latinos finding their place in the community

Elkhart County’ Latino population, rooted mainly in Mexico, has grown and grown. That’s no secret. In a three-part Elkhart Truth series, “Hispanics at Home?”, we looked beyond that, aiming for a sense of how connected Latinos feel here. I was a key reporter in the May 2016 package, digging into the data and interviewing 50-plus people. I wrote six stories (including the leads in parts one and two), made two videos and did plenty of social media. Two favorite stories: “Undocumented status keeps some immigrants peering in from the outside,” May 21, 2016, and “Latinos live in parallel worlds,” May 14, 2016.


Angie Garza, grandmother of Kirk Coleman, shows her tattoo of the likeness of the boy, Feb. 1, 2016. By Tim Vandenack

Angie Garza, grandmother of Kirk Coleman, shows her tattoo of the likeness of the boy, Feb. 1, 2016. By Tim Vandenack

‘Kirk may have still been here’

I met with the grandmother and mother of a young boy, Kirk Coleman, who allegedly died at the hands of his babysitter. The death spurred grandma Angie Garza and mom Anissa Garza to successfully push Indiana lawmakers to approve a measure creating a public registry of child-abuse offenders, like the sex-offender registry. Kirk’s babysitter had had trouble with the law previously related to her babysitting duties, unbeknownst to the Garzas. I spoke with the two women, recounting their sad story and their efforts to get a measure of justice for Kirk for The Elkhart Truth in “New Paris woman’s child abuse registry proposal debated by Indiana lawmakers,” Feb. 2, 2016.


Some of the people of south-central Elkhart, top row, left to right: Tara Morris, Shirley Jarman, Jean Mayes. Middle row, left to right: Forrest Ludwick, Meko Erwin, Rosie Shepherd. Bottom row, left to right: Michele Molik, Jessica Dubose, Amyia O'Brie and Mekhi Gilbert. By Tim Vandenack

Some of the people of south-central Elkhart. By Tim Vandenack

Residents from one of Elkhart’s poorest neighborhoods speak out

We’re quick to visit south-central Elkhart and the Washington Gardens housing development when we hear of a shooting. In a three-day Elkhart Truth series, “Down But Not Out: Life in south-central Elkhart”, we did more, talking to those who live in the area, one of Elkhart’s poorest. I played a central role, talking to 40-plus people, writing most of the stories, sorting through a ton of datacontributing photos and video. Two favorite stories: “Life in Washington Gardens: Vigilance and dreams of moving on,” Oct. 24, 2015, and “Elkhart woman sees Washington Gardens as stepping stone to her dreams,” Oct. 26, 2015.


Screen grab of table from story package showing rising gun sales.

Screen grab of table from story package showing rising gun sales.

Gun sales are going up, up, up in Indiana

Spurred by the gun debate brought on by President Obama’s Jan. 5, 2016, announcement of gun-control measures and the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings, I delved into FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System figures to gauge gun sales in Indiana. The figures showed there’s been no slowdown in sales, jitters by gun advocates that gun rights are threatened notwithstanding. They’ve gone up. We did a Sunday package, including numerous graphics. Here’s the main story (data at the bottom), “Indiana gun sales on the rise in wake of terrorist attacks, Obama’s executive orders,” Jan. 17, 2016. I did sidebars on the use of guns acquired in Indiana by Chicago gang members and several gun proposals up for deliberation by Indiana lawmakers.


Steve Noble lived in this tent. By Tim Vandenack

Steve Noble lived in this tent. By Tim Vandenack

Elkhart men pitch tents, find home in city forest

I learned some homeless men pitched tents in a forest in the middle of Elkhart, nowhere else to go. I visited their “home” with a local city council member, pulled some data together on homelessness here and put this story together, “Elkhart homeless men find place to live in wooded area of the city,” Aug. 30, 2015.


A Dec. 20, 1978, Elkhart Truth article on Frank, a local transgender man. He approached us anew amid the debate over an LGBT civil rights ordinance, wanting hier perspective known. By Tim Vandenack

A Dec. 20, 1978, Elkhart Truth article on Frank. He approached anew to address an LGBT civil rights ordinance proposal. By Tim Vandenack

Frank, a transgender man, listened to the debate over an LGBT ordinance measure, stepped forward to defend it

Debate raged in Elkhart over a proposal to add protections to the transgender and gay communities in the city’s civil rights ordinance. A local transgender man, Frank, contacted the newspaper, wanting his story told. I spoke to him and wrote this, “Transgender man defends LGBT ordinance proposals” and this, “I was living a lie,” Aug. 2, 2015.


Here's the Instagram picture I took when Zach Anderson's case was featuered on ABC's Nightline.

Here’s the Instagram picture I took when Zach Anderson’s case was featured on ABC’s Nightline.

Social media connection leads to sex, sex-offender registry listing. Teen cries foul.

An Elkhart 19-year-old landed in hot water after hooking up with a girl using an app. She said she was 17, they had sex, but turns out she was 14. He ended up on the sex-offender registry, which spurred a campaign by him and his parents, who decried what they saw as heavy-handed justice. Here are three stories, “Elkhart 19-year-old fights sex offender status after encounter with Michiana teen,” June 7, 2015; “Campaign for Anderson underscores broader concerns about sex offender registries,” June 9, 2015; “Elkhart teen on sex-offender registry generating national attention,” July 30, 2015.


Front pages of the Elkhart Truth when each of the three installments of the 5 Years Later series debuted, July13, Oct. 12 and Dec. 14, 20-14. By Tim Vandenack

Front pages of the Elkhart Truth when the three installments of the 5 Years Later series debuted, July13, Oct. 12 and Dec. 14, 2014. By Tim Vandenack

A look back at the recession and the havoc it caused, a look to the future

In 2014, The Elkhart Truth looked back at the grim years of the Great Recession then turned the focus to the future, trying to discern how to avoid a repeat. The 2007-2009 downturn hit hard, drawing President Obama and making Elkhart the poster child of the recession. The three-part series, winner in 2015 of the Indiana Associated Press Media Editors’ Kent Cooper Award, was a team effort and I, with 12 bylined stories, was a central reporter, tracking down people, digging into the data. Part I, released July 13, 2014, looked at how Elkhart County is faring now. Part II, Oct. 12, 2014, looked back at the grim years. Part III, Dec. 14, 2014, looked to the future, what leaders are doing to temper the negative impact next time. A big takeaway — while things in 2014 had improved, it was still tough for many to get by, underscored by the experience of James Bacon. Other takeaways — quick relief, from a sector like electric cars, say, probably isn’t in the offing and workers suspect it’s a matter of when the next downturn comes around, not if.


GarfieldAve

Elkhart police presence spikes on Garfield Avenue, riling residents, after officer beaten

On July 3, 2014, a man seriously beat an Elkhart police officer after being asked to get out of Garfield Avenue, where he was standing, speaking to someone in a car. Police in response beefed up their presence on the street, riling neighbors, who called it harassment. We sought data from police on police calls and responses and the numbers, indeed, showed a significant spike, giving credence to the complaints. Look here: “Data show Elkhart police beefed up Garfield Avenue presence after attack on officer,” Aug. 7, 2014.


Elkhart's Paez family has faced a long battle fighting deportation back to their native Colombia. By Tim Vandenack

Elkhart’s Paez family has faced a long battle fighting deportation back to their native Colombia. By Tim Vandenack

Latinos, immigrants and immigration have been a big focus

I’ve written extensively about Elkhart County’s burgeoning Latino and immigrant population, drawn by jobs in the manufacturing sector. It’s a particular interest, having lived in Mexico, South Texas along the Mexican border and South America and being a Spanish speaker. Here are a few recent examples:


A few more


The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kan.


Freelancing, Santiago, Chile

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