Category Archives: Byline Confidential

Phil Kadner

Some people think Daily Southtown columnist Phil Kadner is the state's best journalist.

This episode is a good chat with the 37-year veteran about his life in the news business, mostly covering the city's south suburbs. Phil shares touching stories about the homeless and south suburban charities and tells fascinating tales about:

Racial change in the city’s neighborhoods (Neo-Nazis in Marquette Park)

Deciding not to become a sportswriter at Northern Illinois University (“I found it more corrupt in many ways than anything I ever covered on any political beat, covering police, all sorts of things…”)

The tragic tale of a shooting involving a carney, the NIU basketball team and a player recruited into NIU who’d been stashed at a community college

A particularly memorable tale about Robbins drug dealers (“I tell these kids not to sell drugs and they tell me we’re making more than your police officers are making, go away”)

I really enjoyed this talk with Phil, who is a true classic newsman, so check it out!


Elvia Malagon

Elvia Malagon covers crime for the Times of Northwest Indiana.
A fun talk about:
An alleged serial killer in Gary Indiana
Crazy Floridians
The importance of storytelling relatives, like the grandmother who "always tells these really depressing stories" that "sound really uplifting" but end with death
With stints at newspapers in Florida and Kentucky, and with the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, Elvia has a lot of fun stories to tell, so check it out!

Jackie Spinner

As a child, Jackie Spinner always wanted to be the first of her siblings to tell her mother what they’d seen.

That instinct took her from the Daily Egyptian at Southern Illinois University to the Washington Post and Iraq. Now she’s a media reporter with the Columbia Journalism Review and a professor at Columbia College Chicago.

Jackie's a great reporter and we had a good chat, so check it out! 


Jazmin Beltran

Univision's Jazmin Beltran is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, educator, person with a lot of neat stories to tell.

From a small paper in Racine, Wisconsin to Spanish media, she's done all sorts of jobs: web publishing, stints on the assignment desk, broadcast journalist. A fun chat and a good conversation, so check it out!


Matt O’Connor

He's been misidentified as "The Bearded Bandit" and dubbed "The" Matt O'Connor in Japan.

Today, Matt is a "mild-mannered" newspaper editor at the Chicago Tribune, where he's covered public corruption at federal courts (including corrupt Gov. George Ryan), crime in Cook County (the Dowaliby kid-killing trial), and business.

Before that, he's got amazing tales from his early days covering Caterpillar for the Peoria Journal Star, which sent him all around the world for a 10-part series about the giant corporation's future back in the day. A fun chat with a forty-year veteran who's got interesting stories about "deceptively dangerous" Jeffrey Erickson, a notorious bandit and former police trainee, and the points-shaving scandal at Northwestern.


Mary Schmich

On a beautiful summer afternoon, Mary Schmich and I sat near the top of Tribune Tower and talked about her life in journalism:

Mary’s discovery, at an early age, that you could have fun with words (“Fuse confusion”). Her memories of working at the LA Times, where she worked on a typewriter in the fog of cigarette smoke and learned to write for newspapers by going through copy sheets. Why she believes being a journalist is being “in the business of connecting people to each other.”

We talk about returning to the South, where she grew up, as a Tribune national correspondent, her time covering Jim Bakker’s trial and Tammy Fay Bakker, and her earliest days writing a column in Orlando. “Never be afraid to look stupid.” A fun talk with a great newswoman.


Dennis Black

This is the sex, drugs and journalism edition of Byline Confidential, starring Dennis Black!

Dennis is an old Texas wiseass with endless great stories: the time he asked Miss America who washes her underwear, intern torture, troublemaker reporters inserting funk into their copy to see if it gets caught. (“We can’t say 37 big knockers.")

He edited sports copy at the Dallas Morning News and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and reported from small papers in Texas and Louisiana. His stories about driving around with cops and strolling through towns asking, "Are there any interesting people around here?" are a hoot. That's the episode in a word.


Sarah Engel

Ever wonder what goes into a traffic report? WBEZ’s Sarah Engel has you covered.

A fun chat with a lifelong Chicago native who's got underground rock podcasts run by a circus owner in her backstory and helicopters.


Gisela Orozco

In Mexico, being a female journalist is often considered an MMC career: “mientras me caso,” or “while I get married.”

Not for Gisela Orozco, who has been a reporter and editor for 15 years. Gisela is currently the entertainment editor at Hoy in Chicago, where she writes about all sorts of cool stuff while balancing being a single mother.

She’s a talented woman who grew up in a small town and moved to the United States after college. Gisela started as a typist in the classifieds section at La Raza but worked her way up to editorial. A fun chat about seeking independence, talking to people and more!


Maya Schenwar

Maya Schenwar is Truthout's Editor-in-Chief and the author of Locked Down, Locked Out, a fascinating new book about the prison system.

A really fun interview about her career and detours, including time spent farming in Europe at a "center for spiritual wellness."

Maya also opens up about her sister's experiences in the criminal justice system, pregnant women delivering their babies in jail, being pen-pals with Steven Michael Woods, a Texas inmate executed for a crime someone else confessed to and much much more!