Looking for the place behind the news with columnist Mary Schmich

June 23, 2012

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This audio contains strong language that may not be appropriate for younger or more sensitive listeners.

Mary Schmich was working as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel when a Chicago Tribune editor offered her a job up north. She knew little of the Windy City, but Schmich’s father grew up in Iowa, and she and her seven siblings grew up with an idea of “Chicago as Paris”  the great American city.

Her own affinity for the city came quickly, and soon Schmich began hitting the pavement and touring Chicago’s neighborhoods in search of material for her column, which she has written for the Trib since 1992. For example, when a so-called "flash mob" attacked tourists in the Gold Coast last year, Schmich went to Englewood instead to find the family of the accused assailants. It's creative efforts like these that earned Schmich the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in April, when the jury commended her "for her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city."

Not every columnist works this way, Schmich acknowledges, and that’s OK – there are many different ways to write a column, she says. But of columnists who write from the confines of their office, Schmich says, “those people weren’t reporters – the world is interesting and more clear when you go out.”

Her results bear that out. You can hear Schmich’s moving read of her "flash mob" column in the audio attached.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Mary Schmich spoke at an event presented by the Association for Women Journalists-Chicago in June. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.