A little over a year ago, Lisa Matte, Editor of Global Traveler magazine contacted me about writing an article for the May 2008 issue. The fact that the piece was to be about Chicago made it an absolute no-brainer.
Matte knew that I had done some writing before. I had several pieces published in Lerner Newspapers and a few random pieces published in autograph or collecting publications. This piece would certainly be my biggest in terms of size and exposure.
Using the format for the 'Destination One' section in which my Chicago article would appear, I broke down my assignment into 5 parts. The first and most important part would be the interview with Mayor Richard M. Daley.
In other GT pieces, the interview segment would often highlight a Director of Transportation at the airport. In smaller cities, occasionally a Mayor was featured. Clearly, Mayor Daley would be the biggest interview subject and I was determined to land hizzoner!
I immediately contacted an old colleague, Brian Steele, who was Director of Communications for the Chicago Dept. of Transportation. Steele guided me to several other members of Mayor Daley's staff. Each would play a vital role in the article.
One of Steele's leads was Kate Sansone, a spokesperson for Mayor Daley. Sansone was very receptive to my request, but Mayor Daley was very busy, of course. Sansone promised the interview, but time was an issue.
With that on the backburner, I finished the easiest part first. The 'Info To Go' section is a few paragraphs on transportation in and out of Chicago, as well as around the city. Basically, this was a blurb on O'Hare, Midway and the CTA, including website info.
With one part done and another part simmering, I tackled the toughest part, the meat of the article. With Chicago's rich history, I had too many options on my mind.I decided I didn't want to simply regurgitate the history of Chicago for the umpteenth time. I wanted to present today's Chicago, as I have seen it change in recent years. I wanted to concentrate on Chicago's ascension to world class status under the regime of Mayor Daley.
I did a quick 3 paragraph recap of the history of Chicago, just to set the stage. Then I immediately jumped into the improvements made during Mayor Daley's reign.
I discussed the beautification plan. I talked about how city investment had been followed by private development in many areas of the city. I mentioned Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. All of these factors and several more were reasons why Chicago is poised to take its rightful place on the global stage. I also included a quote by Jennifer Martinez, Director of Media Relations to add some color.
A few (about 25) rewrites and this part of the article would be tight and (more importantly) done. I trimmed it and reworked it until I really thought it was solid.
Two parts were now finished. Sansone had kept in contact and kept assuring me that Daley would come through with the interview. I was starting to worry, but threw that energy into the next part, a section called 'Diversions'.
This section is a several paragraph mini-article about things to do in a day in Chicago. I refused to go the typical high-brow (boring) route. I wanted to list stuff real people did and enjoyed. I researched on the web and through friends. I came up with several activities such as a Shoreline Sightseeing Cruise, a ball game at Wrigley Field and a concert at Ravinia. I was happy with this part.
Later I would realize that the 'Diversions' section contained the one error I did not catch. I mentioned the 146 foot Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. I never liked the metric system and it came back to bite me here, as the Ferris wheel is actually 146 metres or about 3 times the size I listed. Oooops.
That made 3 parts down, one in limbo and one to go. The last part I did was the highlighting of 3 restaurants and 3 hotels in Chicago. Again, I did not want to go with the standard easy choices. I wanted to pick places from a Chicagoan's point of view.
For restaurants, I picked Gibson's, Costa's and LaLuce. I have eaten at each and each is outstanding. For hotels, I chose the Amalfi (a trendy hotel just north of the river), the Sheraton (an awesome hotel with a great view of everything) and the Peninsula (a favorite of GT readers, as well).
Like in any great drama, just when I thought it was hopeless, Sansone came through for me and I had my interview with Mayor Daley! I couldn't have been more pleased!
I breathed a sigh of relief and anxiously waited for the article to appear in print. Coincidentally, I received a copy direct from Fran Gallagher (the Publisher), while I was in New York for a GT event. I absolutely loved seeing it in print.
I really appreciated Fran and Lisa for giving me the chance. I give thanks to Brian, Kate, Jennifer and Mayor Daley for their cooperation. I also thank Laurie for honing my skills at Lerner and giving me confidence to be able to do such a piece ("she started it").