The Elkhart Truth, Elkhart, Ind.
A few recent favorites:
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.
‘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.
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 data, contributing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- “Goshen man originally from Mexico worried, resigned, hopeful as debate simmers over Obama’s immigration changes,” Feb. 27, 2015, written as hopes spiked among many undocumented immigrants due to changes implemented by President Obama.
- “Elkhart grandmother pleads for authorities to let Central American children stay,” Aug. 21, 2014, localization of the national surge in undocumented immigrant children coming to the country from Honduras and elsewhere in Central America.
- “‘Overwhelming’: Elkhart family faces 10-year separation due to immigration law,” April 13, 2013, tells the toll taken on one family split apart because of U.S. immigration law
- “She’s 20 but can’t go to the movies: Goshen woman seeks documentation,” Feb. 14, 2013, one in a series on young undocumented immigrants, dreamers, coming out of the shadows in Elkhart County.
- “Rejected 3 times, Elkhart family’s immigration options narrowing,” Jan. 16, 2012, one of the first of many stories I wrote documenting the ongoing struggles of an Elkhart family fighting deportation back to Colombia.
A few more
- Affordable Care Act: I found that many who would potentially benefit in Elkhart County from the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, aren’t versed in its particulars. “Obamacare is rolling out, but many who would be impacted don’t know much about it,” Sept. 22, 2013.
- Cycling dangers: I dug deeper into an Elkhart County Sheriff’s Deparment accident report on the death of a cyclist. “A cyclist dies, raising questions about how to improve safety on the Pumpkinvine trail,” Oct. 13, 2013.
- Parsing the truth: My reporting in the summer and fall of 2012 focused on the heated race for the open U.S. House seat representing Elkhart County. Here, I sift through the multiple charges levied by the hopefuls. “Be careful: Mullen, Walorski ads in U.S. House contest aren’t alwatys quite on the mark,” Oct. 25, 2012.
- A local Klansman profiled: Railton Loy, leader of a local Ku Klux Klan group, revealed he’d be stepping down. I asked for an interview, he agreed and the resulting story generated a hailstorm of comment and criticism. “‘A half century of hate’: Local Klan leader stepping down,” April 16, 2012.
- Local man speaks out: Every city council, every county board of commissioners has one — the local citizen who has an opinion on everything and insists on being heard. Here I profile one such man. “Goshen man makes sure elected officials know what he thinks,” Aug. 4, 2011.
- Flap over geese hunting: A man, miffed at hunters shooting for geese from the river in front of his home, blared loud music to get them to vamoose. Hilarity, or something, ensued, along with a follow-up (look here) offering the take of one of the hunters. “Elkhart man recently blasted music to get geese hunters out of his back yard,” Jan. 21, 2011.
The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kan.
- SW Kansas gays speak out, Sept. 17, 2006
- Few answers after community college president’s suicide, Oct. 23, 2003
- Koehn dominates Kansas town’s phonebook, April 21, 2004
- Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Durango natives dominate southwest Kansas Hispanic community, April 10, 2004
- Mexicans trek from southwest Kansas to Mexico for Christmas, Dec. 21, 2003
Freelancing, Santiago, Chile
- Ex-Chilean dictator Pinochet generates cheers, jeers on return, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), March 4, 2000
- Old-timers remember Nebraska, Chile, Lincoln Journal Star, April 6, 2003
- Indigenous Mapuche, Chilean logging companies face off, Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2001
- Proposed aluminum plant sparks debate in southern Chile, Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2002
- Chilean Indians battle proposed dam project, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) May 6, 2000
- UFO sightings the seeming norm in Chile, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), June 20, 2000