Stories by Brandis Friedman

After Highland Park Couple’s Surrogate Escaped Ukraine, They Now Wait to Bring Their Premature Twins Home

Jeff Sterling and Lilac Epstein’s twin daughters were born at just 27 weeks to a Ukrainian surrogate in the Czech Republic. (Courtesy of Lilac Epstein)

A suburban couple’s Ukrainian surrogate — who had been moved to the Czech Republic — delivered their twin babies by emergency C-section at just 27 weeks. The early news was just the latest nerve-wracking development in what has been months of tense waiting. 

Chicago’s Top Doc on COVID-19 Increase and ‘Medium Risk’ Designation

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, appears on “Chicago Tonight” on May 9, 2022. (WTTW News)

Chicago, Cook County and several surrounding counties have all recently been designated as being at “medium risk” of their residents contracting COVID-19. 

Highland Park Couple Anxiously Awaits Twins Born Via Surrogate From War-Torn Ukraine

(Courtesy Jeff Sterling, Lilac Epstein)

In the last five years, Ukraine has emerged as the second-most popular destination for surrogacy, only behind the United States, in part because some nations outlawed surrogacy.

Fashion Fair Cosmetics Receives Makeover, Returns to Stores

New ownership has given Fashion Fair cosmetics its own makeover and returned it to store shelves. (Courtesy Fashion Fair)

Many Black women may be familiar with the cosmetics brand Fashion Fair — founded in 1973 by Eunice Johnson, wife of John Johnson, the Black publishing magnate behind Ebony and Jet magazines.

In-Person Learning Resumes at Chicago Public Schools

Students at Chicago Public Schools walk along a hallway in this file photo. (WTTW News)

For the first time in 17 months, Chicago Public Schools students returned to the classroom for full-time, in-person learning Monday. At some schools, the mayor was there to welcome them back.

‘It Could Happen to Anyone’: Chicago Mother Shares Story of Stepson’s Murder

Sonya Anderson speaks with Brandis Friedman about the fatal shooting of her stepson Miles Thompson. (WTTW News)

As journalists, we often work to avoid becoming part of the stories we cover. But sometimes, the story is part of us. Last month, my friend Sonya Anderson’s stepson was shot and killed, just two days before his 19th birthday. We sit down for an intimate conversation about gun violence.

Cemetery Tour Traces 155 Years of History Since the First Juneteenth

Oak Woods Cemetery (WTTW News)

From the Civil War to the civil rights movement and everything in between, the lives of these prominent Black Chicagoans are educating others. We visit Oak Woods Cemetery for a lesson.

Cook County Program Helps Recovering Drug Addicts Find a New Lease on Life

(WTTW News)

Breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction is a challenge made even tougher once the criminal justice system gets involved. A new program is helping those recovering find refuge in their own homes.

CPS, CTU Announce Tentative Agreement to Reopen High Schools

A sign promoting social distancing is shown inside a Chicago Public Schools building. (WTTW News)

Chicago Public Schools high school students will return to the classroom on Monday if teachers agree to the framework announced Thursday by the district and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Community Groups Offer Remote Learning Support to Families in Need

(WTTW News)

How neighbors in some Chicago communities are stepping up to help students with remote learning when their parents can’t work from home.

CPS to Bring Back Some Students for In-Person Learning As Soon As Jan. 11

(WTTW News)

Though Illinois will soon see increased restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some Chicago Public Schools students and teachers are set to head back to the classroom. The head of CPS and Mayor Lightfoot discuss the plan.

Amid COVID-19 Surge, CPS Timeline for In-Person Learning Unclear

A student wears a mask at Sacred Heart School in the city’s South Deering neighborhood. (WTTW News)

The second quarter for Chicago Public Schools students is underway, and it’s still not clear when teachers and students could return to their physical classrooms. But in some other districts, schools have reopened.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Current COVID-19 Situation, Vaccine Prospects

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, talks Wednesday, Oct, 29, 2020 about the coronavirus pandemic with Brandis Friedman as part of Chicago Ideas Week. (WTTW News via Chicago Ideas Week)

Brandis Friedman sits down with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to talk about where things stand now with the pandemic and where they’re headed. 

Parents React to CPS Plan to Reopen Schools to Some Students Next Month

(ponce_photography / Pixabay)

Chicago Public School parents are having mixed reactions to the district’s new plan to bring some students back into the classroom before the end of the calendar year, just as COVID-19 cases in the city begin to increase again.

CPS To Bring Back Pre-K, Some Special Education Students For In-Person Learning: Sources

(WTTW News)

Under the district’s plan, pre-K and cluster program students would return for full-day learning, five days a week beginning next quarter.

How Students in Waukegan Juggle High School with Corporate Jobs

Edwin Morales, a student at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan. (WTTW News)

The pandemic has upended how we work and how our children attend school. For one school network, Cristo Rey schools, the students attend school and work. Here’s a look at their model — and how it’s changing.

Remote Learning Begins at CPS. Will Virtual Efforts Make the Grade?

(ArtisticOperations / Pixabay)

Chicago Public Schools students are now back in the classroom — virtually, that is. Students officially began remote learning Monday, but many people argue that nothing can replace time in the classroom.

Spotlight Politics: Officials Fear Judge Shortage Could Make Election Day Difficult

(WTTW News)

The Chicago Board of Elections is pleading with the public in order to find election judges for Tuesday’s primary. Our politics team takes on that story and more election news in this week’s roundtable.

CPS Teacher’s Assistant Marks 6th Coronavirus Case in Illinois

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

A Chicago woman in her 50s who works at Chicago Public Schools in the city’s Portage Park neighborhood has tested positive for COVID-19. 

City Grades Itself on Implementing Court-Enforced Police Department Overhaul

(WTTW News)

In a 23-page report filed Friday, the city of Chicago highlights the steps it has taken in the last six months to make progress on implementing a court-ordered consent decree.

Cook County Jail Inmates Develop Plans for Business – and Life

(WTTW News)

If you needed to build a business, how quickly could you pull together a plan? What if you had to do it without access to the internet? These men did just that – in an atypical setting. Here’s how.

CPS: Watchdog Report Highlights Need for Standardized Test Improvements

(WTTW News)

Whether or not Chicago Public Schools students are gaming a standardized test system was the topic of debate during Wednesday’s CPS board meeting.

Creator of the 1619 Project Discusses the Legacy of Slavery

 Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones appears on “Chicago Tonight.” (WTTW News)

This year, the U.S. marks the 400th year since the Pilgrims arrived. But the year before that, a much darker period began with the sailing of the White Lion. We speak with New York Times Magazine journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones about The 1619 Project.

In ‘Keeping Hope Alive,’ Jesse Jackson Reflects on a Lifetime of Speeches, Sermons

The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks with WTTW News.

A look back at the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose latest book has been decades in the making.

CPS Attendance Dips on Strike Make-Up Days

(WTTW News)

Only 62% to 66% of Chicago Public Schools students went to class on Jan. 2 and 3 – days that were originally scheduled to be part of winter break but later converted to attendance days following the 11-day teachers strike.

Pay for Senior Teachers Still Unresolved, Months after CTU Strike Ended

The Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 hold a massive demonstration in the Loop on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 -- day five of the Chicago teachers strike. (WTTW News)

Why the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education are still at odds over the teacher’s contract.