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I'm a Chicago-based reporter, author and journalism instructor 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.

Currently I am a lecturer in the graduate program at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, where I lead the Social Justice & Investigative Specialization and co-direct the  Social Justice News Nexus,, a fellowship program that brings together graduate students and professional reporters.

I'm also a staff writer for Midwest Energy News and I write for publications including The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Chicago Reader and In These Times.

Kari Lydersen

I previously worked 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.

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 also taught journalism at Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and worked 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


Heroin, homelessness and the global economy:

For several years I've been focusing deeply on the intersections of the opioid crisis, homelessness and the ground-level impacts of the global economy. I've spent many hours in the homeless encampments of Chicago, where I've met people with lives derailed by heroin, jobs lost and mental illness; and where I uncovered a network of homeless Mexican workers being essentially trafficked to work in Chinese restaurants around the Midwest, as described in my story for The Guardian.  I've also reported on heroin in Puerto Rico and the pipeline of drugs and drug users being sent from Puerto Rico to Chicago. The plight of Puerto Rican and other people of color addicted to heroin has often been overlooked in the recent focus on white heroin users, as I explained for In These Times.  I've examined these same issues deeply in Jamestown, NY, a Rust Belt town hard-hit by deindustrialization and the opioid crisis, where many people turned to prescription painkillers to deal with workplace injuries or depression, as I reported for The Pacific Standard  and from the Bullfrog Hotel, a bar and flophouse hotel owned by a prominent family of Trump supporters.



The clean energy revolution:


Our country's energy system is going through a revolution, with centralized coal and nuclear plants quickly being replaced by distributed renewable energy and a network of smart grids and advanced batteries. The utility and fossil fuel industries and politicians who represent them are fighting hard against this change, trying to frame renewable energy as the purview of liberal elites. But renewable energy actually has deep bi-partisan popular support and the market and technology forces driving it seem ultimately unstoppable. I've been chronicling the technology, policy, political and cultural issues around this radical energy shift, including an explanation of the mysterious smart grid for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers magazine, the showdown over rooftop solar in Wisconsin for Midwest Energy News and the last stand of the Illinois coal industry for the Chicago Reader.










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