Tribune Reporter on ‘Three Years of Nights’ Covering Chicago Violence

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Chicago Tribune crime reporter Peter Nickeas worked the overnight shift for three years straight, covering the violence that afflicts the city after dark.

In a new article, Nickeas recounts his experiences and documents the toll he saw violence take on police, families, neighborhoods–and himself. The article “Three Years of Nights” has just been published in this month’s issue of Chicago magazine.

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Shortly after being moved off a full-time overnight schedule, Nickeas began writing the article “as a cathartic thing, just trying to sit down and sort through the last few years,” he said.

The bulk of it was finished within a couple months, followed by several more of editing and rewriting. Nickeas said it wasn’t difficult writing about his experiences but that talking about it in person can be difficult, like when he speaks to college classes or in social settings when people are discussing their work lives.

“If somebody’s like, ‘What did you do at work today?’ and I tell them, that’s weird,” Nickeas said. “‘Went to three murders, two shootings, got hassled by the cops and by the family.’ What are you supposed to say to that?”

Read Peter Nickeas’ article: “Three Years of Nights” in Chicago magazine

Nickeas hopes the article might help people understand the toll it takes reporting on violence. He describes the work as numbing, draining, isolating, especially on an overnight schedule. While he still works overnight shifts, it’s no longer his day-to-day life.

“I’ve been off strict overnights the last two years, and I’ve had stuff the last two years during the daytime that’s been just as bad as nighttime stuff,” Nickeas said.

But despite the toll, reporting on violence is something he feels passionately about.

“It’s something that’s hard to cover for a sustained period of time,” Nickeas said. “But what, you’re not going to cover violence? It needs to be covered – not just crime, specifically violence in this city needs dedicated professional coverage. It can’t be ignored.”

Nickeas joins “ChicagoTonight” for a conversation.

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