Kate Grossman, 2010 Terkel Award Winner

Kate Grossman Kate Grossman
Deputy Editorial Page Editor
Chicago Sun-Times

In preparing to be a journalist, Sun-Times Editorial Page Deputy Editor Kate Grossman decided to study policy and spend a year teaching at a Chicago public school. “I’m a little bit of an odd bird,” she says.

Her grasp of how government works—or could work better—has produced reporting and more recently commentary that shaped debates and framed decisions on Chicago’s public housing and schools.

After a year in the early 1990s as s production assistant at ABC’s 20/20 in Washington, D.C., she could see a career path there, but “I never left the building,” she recalls. Not a good fit for someone who says her trademark is “to really dig in and see what’s actually happening.”

Hired in 2000 at the Sun-Times, Kate says she “weaseled” her way into covering the kind of policy stories she became known for: shining a light on the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation, spending a year at Donoghue charter school on the near South Side to examine Renaissance 2010, and other issues.

“I thought [the policies were] really important and interesting,” she says. “It took me a while to realize that other people didn’t.”

Facing the challenge of less space in the paper for policy stories deemed unlikely to engage readers, Kate began to tell the stories of people she met while learning how policy was playing out on the ground. “I had to find a way to make it more appealing to readers…. That’s why I’ve done all these intimate portraits of individuals. It makes them [and their problems] real, alive, so readers can say, ‘Oh, they’re just like me.’” To the extent Studs Terkel is a model, it’s his aura of reaching out and finding the stories of everyday people that has inspired her, Kate adds.

Joining the editorial board has been different in many ways, she says. At least one plus: the guarantee she will get to write “something of substance” almost every day. She won an award for a series in 2009 on “Calming Our Classrooms” calling for more adult support such as social workers in struggling schools, especially high schools. Characteristically, those editorials feature the voices of students, staff, and teachers, and cite current research.

“I’m not an advocate, I’m a journalist,” she says. “But I think we can be part of the conversation and point out things people aren’t aware of. It’s a neutral role but I think it’s an important one.”

Kate, 40, lives in the North Center neighborhood with her husband and two children.

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