unPHILtered – Phil Ponce's Blog

Targeting Violence

Tonight on Chicago Tonight, we are devoting the entire hour to the epidemic of gun violence that has hit parts of Chicago.  Some of our guests will include Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton (the mother of murder victim Hadiya Pendleton), Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.  Additionally, we will be joined by a studio audience made up of members of the community, including young people who face the issues of gun violence in their everyday lives.

Our goal is to take stock of where the city is in the fight against violence and to hear from people whose lives are impacted by it.  We may not solve anything tonight, but we feel it is our responsibility to keep the conversation going on the most critical issue the city is facing.

I hope you tune in.  We will also be live streaming the show on our website and facilitating an online web chat with featured guest panelist Tio Hardiman, the Director of CeaseFire Illinois.  Click here to participate.

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What Would You Have Done?

Say you have a really close friend at work.  And say you know that she/he is doing something away from the office that you know is wrong (but not illegal) and that your friend’s spouse and children would be terribly hurt if they ever found out about it.  Your good friend unexpectedly dies in a way that’s connected to the hurtful activity, but the truth about your friend’s activity and death is covered up and it never comes out.  And the issue goes away.  For a while.

Fast forward about 30 years.  One of your friend’s children contacts you out of the blue.  The details regarding the parent’s death have never added up in the child’s mind and the child has questions that have been bothering him for a lifetime.  Do you level with an adult who has been grappling with these questions all of his life…or do you feign ignorance and let him continue an anguished quest for answers?

This is what Michael Hainey faced as he attempted to figure out what happened to his father.  He chronicles the story powerfully and eloquently in his new book, After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story, a book I couldn’t put down.   I conducted the interview yesterday, Monday, and it airs tonight.  I hope you tune in. Click here to read an excerpt from the book and watch a web-exclusive conversation between Hainey and me.

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For you news junkies…

As of today, my WTTW colleague, Carol Marin, has started The Marin Report; it’s a quick video recap of the day’s top stories.  You will be able to check it out every day at 12:00 pm on the Chicago Sun-Times website, and then afterwards on her blog.   No one is a bigger fan of Carol’s than I am, so I wish her the best in this new venture.

And what Carol has written about it is true:  the lines continue to blur between the different news “platforms.”  The work of “print” reporters is now featured on the Internet and the same reporter is just as apt to do a broadcast version of the piece, as well.  A little more work for those of in the media, but more offerings for you, our appreciated news consumer!

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And now…the movie???

Some of you may know that my son, Dan, started the a cappella group Straight No Chaser when he was an undergrad at Indiana University.  Years after graduation, one of the members posted one of their collegiate performances on YouTube.  Here it is:

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This video went viral and it was seen by the head of Atlantic Records; he signed the group to a record deal, the guys came back together and now tour extensively.  They have appeared on PBS pledge specials and released several albums.  (Dan toured with the group for two years before deciding to return to broadcast journalism–at WGN TV.)

This whole SNC experience has been so much fun for our family–especially when the group was in its infancy and we would drive down to Bloomington to see them perform.  And now comes the prospect of the following.  If it actually comes to fruition, the family would be really tickled.  In the meantime, we are amused by the question, “Who will play Dan???!!!”

DreamWorks Planning Movie About A Cappella Group Straight No Chaser (Exclusive)

Straight No Chaser Group Album - S 2013


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Who Knew?

In getting ready for last night’s interview with State Senator Kimberly Lightford, I was stunned to learn that under current state law, Illinois children are not required to go to school until age 7. That means that most kids don’t legally have to be in school until second grade.

I just assumed that all kids (besides those being home-schooled) had to be in school by kindergarten. But that’s not the case. If a parent enrolls a child before the child is 7, that parent is not under a legal obligation to make sure the child actually attends. So even if a school district has truant officers, those officers are helpless to do anything but request that a truant child return to school. In other words, there is no enforcement mechanism.

Lightford is proposing a bill that would lower the required attendance age to 5 years instead of 7. Other states have done that. And the evidence about the benefits of early schooling seems irrefutable. Other than home-schoolers, what parent would not want their child to have the benefit of those early education years?

To help make up your mind, watch last night’s segment:

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Devouring a Book

I just finished devouring a book in three sittings — including staying up late one night and getting up early one morning.  The book is After Visiting Friends:  A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey.  Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ magazine and was born in Chicago.  His father was a bright, up-and-coming newspaper man who had worked at both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.  But when Hainey was 6, his father died under mysterious circumstances.

Questions surrounding his father’s death haunted Hainey as he was growing up.  Finally, over a 10-year span, Hainey put the pieces together — even though he faced conspiratorial opposition from people who knew the truth — and at the risk of hurting surviving family members, including his mother.

The book is a combination detective story/account of how newspapermen (and they were almost always men) lived and worked in the 50s and 60s, and the story of a son looking for his father.  It is a page turner that has the added qualities of being tender and moving.

I’m interviewing Hainey next Monday, February 25, and will give you another heads-up to remind you to watch!

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We Knew Vivian Before She Was a Superstar

Photographer Vivian Maier continues to be hot, hot, hot.  You know the story:  mysterious Chicago-area nanny with foreign accent dies in obscurity.  Later, tens of thousands of undeveloped negatives are purchased at auction.  It turns out Vivian Maier was a wildly prolific street photographer who took the pictures; posthumously these pictures create a sensation in the art world.  She’s now been the subject of domestic and foreign newspaper and magazine articles, one-person shows, and much attention from the broadcast media — not to mention a following online.

But for the record:  Chicago Tonight may have been the first television show to do a story about her.  So, many props to Jay Shefsky for his highly viewed, curtain-raising story about her.  Jay and the rest of can proudly say, “We knew you when, Vivian!”

Here’s the link to Jay’s original piece:

Here’s another link to a trailer for a new documentary about her:

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