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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 co-director of the Social Justice News Nexus, a reporting fellowship based at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, which brings together graduate students and professional journalists to report on social justice issues including drug policy and mental health.  

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 Discover Magazine and the Better Government Association. 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, Crain’s Chicago Business and The Economist.

Kari Lydersen

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%.

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.



Covering Ebola for Discover Magazine:


I reported for Discover Magazine on the 2014 Ebola epidemic, writing about the unprecedented outbreak as the magazine’s “top science story of the year.” And in a series of blogs for Discover, I explored other aspects of the epidemic including the role of data, the importance of cultural sensitivity, the race for a vaccine and the possibility of Ebola as endemic in West Africa.

Image courtesy of CDC Global: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdcglobal/14907212221/in/photolist-oHimQn-oCVKH6-pRYhcx-pQXJRQ-op34XZ-oHgPqn-oDu5N9-6a3vp3-p7JaMt-pR4ewF-pyBaz3-Z7RkJ-q6bu3C-pQZWrR-pdyCjJ-purTDK-ocA6u9-o49wCn-pBoeo6-pi5TGn-oFukiA-5hXasc-pWKzpg-oFipFC-ptia6Q-qLsmNb-oP4QWN-6s4oLs-ozymNw-ovHMjj-oxFbgp-oxEVMp-ovCUoB-oJJXUe-6bu2fB-ppJNcF-pCYRsM-oUu2Gt-piU225-pBZvUe-piag7D-oXcJW5-pkeGc9-pg72Le-mZyaYW-pxUe6Y-oRuFEu-qTfRRp-pvTEb5-pzBsRW/


Investigating Medical Marijuana for the Better Government Association:


For the Better Government Association, I investigated the economics and intrigue of the ramp-up to Illinois's medical marijuana marketplace, a controversial, highly regulated and potentially highly profitable program. I also spoke about the issue on the WTTW program Chicago Tonight.










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