By Amanda Bonafiglia
Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication recently invited Pulitzer Prize winners Frank Main and Mark Konkol to speak about their series on violence in Chicago.
Last year Main and Konkol, along with photographer John J. Kim, won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting with their exploration of violence in Chicago neighborhoods, which appeared in the Chicago Sun Times.
About 20 students and faculty attended the event in Regents Hall at Lewis Towers.
“This was the third in a series of events highlighting childhood violence,” said Cheryl Manley, the Event Coordinator for the School of Communication. “First was the photo gallery by Carlos Javier Ortiz, ‘Too Young to Die,’ followed by the film ‘Woke Up Black’ by Mary Morten and then ending the semester was this panel discussion by Frank and Mark.”
The evening began with Main giving an introduction for the winning piece, “Area 5“, discussing the inspiration behind the project and the challenges he faced along the way.
” I wanted to take a look at homicide and homicide investigators now in comparison to thirty years ago,” said Main during his introduction.
Main spent four months with homicide detectives documenting the violence and the efforts put forth to solve the crimes. He not only followed current crimes but revisited past crimes and investigated why so few of those cases had even gotten to trial. Main’s production was being hindered by time constraints until Konkol decided to get involved in the project.
“I didn’t want to stay in the office anymore,” Konkol said during the discussion. ” We needed to track down the victims and get their stories.”
The introduction was followed by a screening of “Area 5,” a photo essay exploring the lives of the victims, criminals and investigators involved in violent crime. It also examined how a code of silence, referred to as a “no-snitch culture”, prevalent in Chicago neighborhoods impedes the work of the investigators trying to solve these crimes.
Following the discussion members of Loyola’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), who had been studying the careers of Main and Konkol, asked the winners questions.
Abby Kleckler, 21, a junior journalism major and president of SPJ questioned whether the journalists feared for their lives during the project. They acknowledged that fear is part of their work and offered advice on how to handle that fear.
“You need to know where you are, and you need to listen to your fear,” Konkol said.
Future journalists in attendance welcomed the advice that the panelists offered them.
“Frank Main and Mark Konkol offered useful advice for students pursuing careers in journalism,” said Lynn LeCluyse, 20, junior journalism major.
The winners advised future journalists that their best tools are their feet, brain and ability to write things down.
“Their persistence was inspiring, and I was reminded that the more time and effort you put into getting the full story, the more you are going to get out of it,” LeCluyse said.