The People Are The News

Kate and I moved to Chicago in 2001, after graduating from college. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I had started doing some writing for the weekly College Hill Independent during my senior year and had a vague sense that if somehow I could manage to get paid to learn, talk to people, and write, that would be a pretty awesome way to make a living. I started freelancing and was lucky enough to have a number of contacts with journalists who encouraged and mentored me. One of those mentors was Grant Pick. Grant was a staff writer at the Chicago Reader, and one of the most patient, humane and empathic journalists I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He was also unfailingly supportive of my work, pushing me to be as thorough in my reporting as he was in his, to look past easy and facile ideological frames, and, most of all, to listen to people.

Grant died of a heart attack three years ago, at the far too young age of 57. It was a devastating loss.

Over the last year or so, Grant’s son John, has helped compile and edit an anthology of his father’s best feature work for the Chicago Reader. It’s called The People Are The News, and its name derives from a maxim that guided Grant’s reporting and journalism throughout his entire career. Grant occasionally wrote about politicians or big-shots, but his most distinctive work chronicled the lives of Chicago’s residents: from drag queens to rug salesmen to a man who roamed the South Side with hundreds of keys strung around his neck. The poison of journalism is cynicism and condescension, two faculties with which Grant was simply not equipped. He taught me to approach the lives and struggles and aspirations of the people we report on with empathy, curiosity, openness and compassion. Grant’s departure has left our guild poorer, but we are very lucky to have this new anthology of his excellent work as a reminder of what reporting really means.

You can buy the book here.

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


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