Long-form journalism

I'm grateful whenever I get the chance to report stories in depth. This enables me to pursue my favorite aspects of writing and reporting: obsessive research, penetrating interviews and carefully constructed narratives. 

The either/or world of Cards Against Humanity: Funny or die

THE ASSIGNMENT: An examination of how Cards Against Humanity attempts to juggle irreverence and altruism. THE LEAD: An alarm sounded for Max Temkin after his seven fellow co-creators of the raunchy party game Cards Against Humanity selected Napa Valley as the site of their writers retreat last spring. He sensed his irreverent game was in danger of succumbing to the deadly mellowing effects of commercial success, middle age and financial security. The selection of wine country "felt like hubris," says Temkin. "It felt bad."

Special section: How to create and sustain more women-led businesses

THE ASSIGNMENT: This four-story section from 2018 highlights some of the unique challenges facing women entrepreneurs. THE LEAD: It is, in one sense, a golden era for female entrepreneurs in America: There are 11.6 million women-owned businesses nationwide, or nearly 40 percent of all companies. The 114 percent increase in women-owned businesses over the last two decades far outpaces the overall growth rate of 44 percent, according to a 2017 American Express report.

Red Frog, of Warrior Dash fame, sees air shows as new growth business

When Red Frog Events founder and co-CEO Joe Reynolds surveyed his camp-themed River North office in 2015 and prepared to pink-slip more than a quarter of his staff, he knew the layoffs would be shocking as well as painful. Red Frog was literally in the business of good times, and during its eight years of operation, as its Warrior Dash obstacle-course races and then its Firefly Music Festival brought it national prominence, the company had known only lickety-split growth and best-places-to-work rankings. "We had lightning in a bottle, and the only challenge we focused on was how fast we could grow ​and scale a company," says Ryan Kunkel, Red Frog's other co-CEO and Reynolds' brother-in-law.

Can a program designed for British diplomats fix Chicago's schools?

THE ASSIGNMENT: Last fall, when Chicago Public Schools signaled its plans to double down on the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum as a means of boosting the quality of neighborhood schools, I looked into IB's global origins and its track record and potential in Chicago. THE LEAD: Senn High senior Shrda Shrestha is attending her neighborhood high school in Edgewater against pretty much everybody’s advice. ...

It Will Take a Stoner Savant to Lead the Craft Beer Revolution

THE ASSIGNMENT: I wrote this profile about Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing, just before Lagunitas opened its HQ2 in Chicago. THE LEAD: Tony Magee is singing, but on a recent weeknight the crowd at Riverview Tavern in Roscoe Village hardly notices. They are talking, drinking, watching an NBA playoff game—anything but paying attention to the disheveled middle-aged white guy who is finger-picking old blues tunes on a classic Martin. Once he finishes his last song, he puts the guitar down and stands there alone. A few uncomfortable ...

Ward Eight: Hand-Crafted Cocktails and a Baby

THE ASSIGNMENT: A profile of the owners of a craft-cocktail bar on the Chicago-Evanston border, who lived above the bar—along with their baby. THE LEAD: Raising an infant while living upstairs from a bar sounds like a nightmare. Yet for Cody Modeer and Anne Carlson, it’s the glorious fulfillment of a dream. It helps that they own the place: the bar, the second-floor back office, and the third-floor apartment where they live. It also helps that their sophisticated crowd goes for craft cocktails and conversation, so the noise barely ever trickles upstairs ...

How to scale without crashing and burning: Secrets of 8 smart entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs often start with an idea for a great product or service. The decision to scale comes later. But there's no perfect blueprint, and the risks can be as monumental as the potential rewards. Move too fast, and you can crash and burn. Drag your feet, and the moment may pass you by. Crain's asked eight smart local entrepreneurs who've scaled their businesses to share their hard-won tips ...

Is being "good" good for business?

THE ASSIGNMENT: This four-story package from 2014 examines the rise of corporations focused on social impact. THE LEAD: Tim Frick thought he was running a “good” business—that is, an enterprise that was both altruistic and profitable. At his 16-year-old Ravenswood Web design firm, Mightybytes Inc., Mr. Frick and his 12 employees compost and recycle, and everyone works surrounded by living, green walls made of plants that inch their way toward the ceiling. ...

Pulling away from the pack: These contenders are racing to be the Next Big Thing on Chicago's startup scene

THE ASSIGNMENT: This 2012 package looked at several of Chicago's emerging tech companies to see if one might become the city's next breakaway tech success. It's a pretty good list, in hindsight, with three high-profile acquisitions (Braintree to PayPal, Cleversafe to IBM and Trunk Club to Nordstrom) and a unicorn valuation for Mu Sigma, along with continued growth from Signal and BenchPrep. THE LEAD: Stardom or bust. That's the all-or-nothing outcome for a venture-backed tech startup. It's like the world of rock 'n' roll or the movies — a few breakthrough stars get paid big, while plenty of other talented, aspiring entrepreneurs are forced to scrap their ideas because they can't get big enough, fast enough. The main reason is the way venture-capital investments are structured: VCs place multimillion-dollar bets on tech companies, then look for gigantic returns of at least several times their initial investment. ...