“There’s something about India that completely called me,” says Victoria Lautman, the Chicago arts and culture journalist who describes her favorite Indian stops on Devon Avenue in Decoding Devon. “India is one of those places that really grabs you and holds you or absolutely repels you. For me, all I wanted to do was go back.” Lautman made her first trip there—a month-long group excursion—in 1985, and she hopes to make her fifth this month for the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival. Although she’s a familiar face on Devon, this was her first visit as a reporter. “They’re definitely not used to this kind of attention,” she says of the shocked shopkeepers she approached. “I’m not sure they’ll believe me until they see the story in print.” Her radio show, Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman, ended in June after six years on the air.
An accidental find at an auction house turns into an all-consuming enterprise for one Chicago man in A Life in Shadow. Nora O’Donnell, an associate editor at Chicago, chronicles the life of the reclusive photographer Vivian Maier and the story of John Maloof, the young man who stumbled upon her sizable photo collection and shared her work with the world. “John is the holder of Vivian’s archive,” says O’Donnell, “and it’s clear he has a deep admiration for her.” Maier worked much of her life as a nanny for North Shore families, who remember her with a camera around her neck, but she was notoriously private. When O’Donnell asked one of Maier’s former employers what the photographer would think of a reporter researching her life story, the response was: “Vivian wouldn’t be talking about herself. She’d be asking the questions.”
“Health is the one topic that every single person cares about,” says Karen Springen, who teaches at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. She spoke to more than 60 people for Breakthroughs for Women’s Health and was shocked to discover that existing research into many medical conditions was conducted only on men—and therefore may not sufficiently explain how those conditions affect women. Now, with Chicago at the epicenter of women’s health research, Springen hopes local women will jump at the chance to participate in the scientific process. “By participating in studies,” she says, “you’re helping science and you’re helping yourself.” Springen is also the author of Chicago’s new health column, Healthy Chicago, which will tackle a different topic each month. “I hope it’s empowering,” she says. “You really can do something to improve your health.”
The challenge when shooting “Gavel Not Included” for this month’s Arena, says Saverio Truglia, was how to portray Jabber Jury, a yet-to-launch website that will provide a platform for back-and-forth video debates that channel both courtroom drama and Jerry Springer–style hullabaloo. “I wanted to make a portrait that summarized the quasi-legal process and technological aspects of Jabber Jury,” he says, “but also the nonsensicalness of all this.” During the shoot, the site’s cofounders joked about the Chicago-style conflicts they hope to attract—lighthearted debates like Cubs versus Sox or thin crust versus thick—but recognized the real possibility of some serious, duke-it-out disputes. Truglia says he won’t be airing his dirty laundry on the site: “People are so enthralled with conflict. We enjoy others’ misfortunes, but we don’t like other people enjoying ours.”
Photography: (From top) Anna Knott; Megan Lovejoy; Gigi Kerber; Molly Topper