Photo by Andrew Huff, used under Creative Commons
Years ago, through smart reporting and good sleuthing, it came to light that Jon Burge and his men were torturing suspects on the South Side of Chicago to obtain confessions. One of the biggest stories in Chicago’s recent history, the Burge torture scandal and the news stories that exposed it serve as a reminder that investigative journalism is vital to the health of our communities. After all, someone needs to keep those in power honest.
In 1990, Chicago Reader reporter John Conroy wrote the story “House of Screams,” the piece that would introduce torture in Area 2 to Chicago and eventually lead to thousands of local and national stories about the subject. But this one story wasn’t enough. Conroy followed the Burge torture scandal for 20 years, and eventually other reporters and outlets began digging as well.
Tonight, freelance writer John Conroy (also a Studs Terkel award winner for his Burge coverage), and Michael Miner, Chicago Reader editor and columnist, will talk about police torture in Chicago, the wrongful convictions that happened as a result, and the role of journalism in exposing the atrocities. The first of a two-part series airs this evening on WFMT radio.
Part One: Monday, August 2nd — 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. CDT on 98.7WFMT Radio Chicago and via free streaming at wfmt.com
The second part in the series airs next week.
Part Two: Monday, August 9th — 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. CDT on 98.7WFMT Radio Chicago and via free streaming at wfmt.com
After airing, each part will be available indefinitely for free download, streaming, and podcast at WFMT.
I was fortunate enough to handle communications for MacArthur Justice Center for a number of years while Locke Bowman, legal director at the Justice Center, represented some of the Burge torture victims. It was some of the most rewarding work I have had the opportunity to be involved in. So many people like Conroy and Bowman have spent countless hours and days over the years working on the Burge torture scandal. The guilty verdict last month was a long time coming, and the reporters who followed this story for years, unraveling the pieces and bringing us the news, are a reminder of why good journalism is not just necessary, but a critical piece of a healthy society.