The day Antonio Olivo knew he wanted to be a journalist was the day his blue-collar California suburb was featured in the Los Angeles Times. Prominent placement of a negative story about a local sniper during the L.A. riots convinced Antonio, a second generation Mexican-American freshly out of college, to think seriously about the stories of well-meaning people in communities like his that were rarely noticed. Shortly after, an internship at the L.A. Weekly Newspaper and then a job at the Los Angeles Times would kick off a successful career that eventually brought Antonio to the Chicago Tribune, reporting about issues ranging from housing and urban development to immigration and demographics.
For Antonio, being a reporter in Chicago is an intense experience that has taught him to “write more soulfully…because Chicago has such emotion in it.” When he worked in Los Angeles he noticed pockets of intense community and in New York he was amazed by the enormity of it all, but, he says, “Chicago has all of this pressed into one vibrant place.”
Antonio recalls working on a CHA housing story at one of the last high rises at Stateway Gardens and seeing such strong spirits residing in the soon-to-be-demolished public housing. Nearly forgotten voices like theirs are what has driven him as a reporter, he says.
The first time he heard of Studs Terkel was in California. He was listening to an excerpt of Terkel’s “This Train” where he interviewed people on the train going to Washington D.C. for the 1963 civil rights march featuring Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
“What caught my attention was his easy style of interviewing,” says Antonio. “He was such an amazing figure, and I’m honored to be a recipient of the Terkel Award.”
While he likes to call attention to Latino issues in the city, it’s not his sole focus. Antonio’s passion for investigative reporting and narrative writing take priority to tell stories impacting the entire city.
Antonio is fortunate to have a fellow journalist, Margaret Ramirez, as his wife. “When we’re working on stories, we are both each other’s severest critics,” he says. “It’s my wife’s voice that I trust and respect the most.”
The down side to being married to a journalist? After a hard day at work, the last thing you want to talk about at home is work.
Antonio is a member of the Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists. Through the organization he hopes to increase the representation of Latinos in media and create a virtual plaza where Latino journalists and organizations can connect on issues impacting the Latino community.
In 2008, Antonio’s coverage of the arrest in Los Angeles of Elvira Arellano won the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor award for deadline reporting. Antonio has also won the National Council on Crime & Delinquency PASS Award and the Orange County Bar Association Award in Southern California. He received his B.A. in English Lit at UCLA.
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