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I'm a Chicago-based reporter specializing in energy, the environment, labor, public health and immigration issues, and the myriad and complicated way such topics intersect.

I aim to show the ground-level impacts of policy, technology and economic developments, including a focus on how the most vulnerable communities are impacted and how they respond through community organizing and other efforts.

I currently work as a leader of the Social Justice Chicago Reporting Fellowship at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and also as a research associate for the Medill Watchdog Project.

I write regularly about energy for Midwest Energy News and about labor issues for In These Times magazine along with writing for other publications including Crain's Chicago Business and GlobalPost. I previously wrote for The Washington Post as a staffer in the Midwest Bureau, where I covered breaking news and feature stories around the Midwest and contributed regularly to the Science Page.  I also wrote for The New York Times Chicago edition as a reporter for The Chicago News Cooperative; and I have written for other publications including People Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor and The Economist.

I spent the 2011-2012 academic year at the University of Colorado on a Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism fellowship, focusing on hard rock mining in the U.S. and around the world – an ongoing project. I'm the author of four books; most recently
Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%.

Kari Lydersen

I've taught journalism at Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and I also work with youth journalists from marginalized neighborhoods through the non-profit program We the People Media.

Though journalism is going through some tough times right now, I continue to feel lucky every day to work in a profession where I am constantly learning and having the chance to share what I learn with others. I am always looking for story ideas and opportunities for collaboration or debate. Thank you for visiting my website.


Recent Work

New Book: Closing the Cloud Factories: Lessons from the Fight to Shut Down Chicago’s Coal Plants

Get the free eBook here: http://www.midwestenergynews.com/ebook/



At the turn of the millennium, the Fisk and Crawford power plants in Chicago had declined from workhorses of the Industrial Revolution to arcane relics – more notorious for polluting the nearby Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods than for providing electricity. Kari Lydersen tells the story of how a fragmented coalition of neighborhood activists, national environmental groups and city leaders came together to close the coal plants down for good… a groundbreaking victory in the environmental and social justice movements, where neighborhood activists helped spearhead a cause that resonated worldwide.



Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago's 99%

How did a city long dominated by a notorious Democratic Machine become a national battleground in the right-wing war against the public sector? Mayor 1% takes a close look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and his true agenda. With deep Wall Street ties from his investment banking years and a combative political style honed in Congress and the Clinton and Obama administrations, Emanuel is among a rising class of rock-star mayors promising to remake American cities. But his private-sector approach has sidelined and alienated many who feel they are not part of Emanuel's vision for a new Chicago—and it has inspired a powerful group of activists and community members to unite in defense of their beloved city. Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune called my book “compelling and important reading.” I’m continuing to cover the story, including with this OpEd for Al Jazeera America.





Empty Promises? Vacant government buildings present liabilities and opportunities.

For the Better Government Association I investigated the burden that vacant government buildings – like prisons, hospitals and post offices – place on taxpayers and neighbors…and also the opportunities for creative redevelopment that these structures present. I toured the crumbling historic Joliet prison with guards who used to work there, and learned from local historians and city leaders how the prison could be turned into an important tourist attraction and monument to the prison reform movement of its day. I spoke about the issue with DuPage County radio, and the State Journal-Register picked up the story.



The Southeast Side

Chicago's Southeast side was once a thriving steel mill community, but since the mills closed in the 1980s and 1990s it has fallen on hard times. Many people left, buildings crumbled and burned and gangs proliferated. Now it appears a renaissance may be in store, raising hopes but also fears of displacement. Thanks to the Local Reporting Initiative sponsored by the Chicago Community Trust, I produced three multimedia pieces for WBEZ public radio about the Southeast Side:

Southeast Side: Will new community rise on old South Works steel site? May 31, 2013
Artists aim to paint brighter future on Chicago's Southeast Side
May 31, 2013
South Side neighborhoods vie for presidential library
July 3, 2013










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