Stories by Jay Shefsky

The Changing Role of the American President

The north side of the White House is seen covered in snow Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour / The White House / Flickr)

Much has been said about the ways President Donald Trump is changing the presidency. On this Presidents Day, we look back at the ways the presidency evolved before Trump moved into the White House. 

Social Life Without the Buzz? It’s the ‘Sober Curious’ Movement

(Photo by Lightscape / Unsplash)

Taking a break from alcohol after the holidays has become known as the “dry January” trend. But now that January is over, some people are extending their sobriety, trying out a social life that’s not dependent on alcohol.

WBEZ Reporters Find Rise in Unaccompanied Minors Crossing Mexican Border

A migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, where thousands of asylum-seekers have been living for months as they wait for their court hearings. The camp is without running water or working toilets. (Credit: Maria Ines Zamudio)

A year after the start of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, we talk with a Chicago reporter returning from a border town. 

History Museum Acquires 5 Million Photos from Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times photographers, 1956. (Courtesy the Chicago History Museum)

Journalism, we often hear, is a “first draft of history.” That makes old newspaper photos an excellent window into the past. We get a peek.

Newest National Park Quarter Inspires Collectors with Fruit Bats

The first national park quarter to be released for circulation in 2020 will feature the National Park of American Samoa, home to giant fruit bats. (Credit: United States Mint)

In just a few weeks, there’s a very good chance you’ll have fruit bats in your pocket. The United State Mint will release a quarter on Feb. 3 featuring the National Park of American Samoa, which is home to giant bats.

High School Course Offers New Approach to Financial Literacy

(Skitterphoto / Pixabay)

Illinois is one of 22 states that does not require high school students to take a financial literacy course, but a new high school curriculum is now being used in Illinois and nine other states. We learn about finEDge.

2019 Words of the Year Reflect Changing Attitudes, Awareness

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University of Chicago linguist Jason Riggle discusses some of the top words of 2019, including “they,” “existential” and “climate emergency.”

‘Entertaining Chicago’ Revisits City’s Classic Nightspots

London House, considered one of the foremost jazz clubs in the country, was open from 1946 through the early ‘70s. (Courtesy Neal Samors)

Chicago has a thriving live music scene today, but many of the city’s legendary venues are long gone. A new book from Neal Samors and Bob Dauber remembers many of those 20th century nightspots.

5 Smart Money Moves as 2019 Comes to a Close

(stevepb / Pixabay)

With Christmas behind us, it’s beginning to look a lot like tax season. We get year-end tips from David Henderson, a CPA at the firm of Duggan Bertsch in Chicago.

Lessons From the Front Lines of Violence Prevention and Healing

As part of WTTW’s new documentary series “Firsthand: Gun Violence,” five experts offer big ideas in “Firsthand Talks” sessions for addressing gun violence in Chicago. Four of those experts join us in discussion.

Professional Mediator Offers Tips for Better Negotiations

(rawpixel / Pixabay)

As the city and the Chicago Teachers Union try to hammer out a contract agreement, we explore common strategies and pitfalls in any negotiation with professional mediator Teresa Frisbie.

1 Year After Van Dyke Conviction, How is Chicago Handling Police Misconduct?

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens to closing arguments Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / Pool)

It’s been one year since former Chicago Police Office Jason Van Dyke was convicted of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. We discuss issues related to police misconduct and accountability.

Lone Star Tick Brings Heartland Virus to Illinois

A female lone star tick, or Amblyomma americanum. (CDC / Michael L. Levin, Ph.D.)

Ticks are so good at transmitting potentially dangerous illnesses like Lyme disease that we’re wise to give them our attention now and then. And in Illinois, ticks are now carrying a relatively new disease called Heartland Virus.

Landmark Status in Pilsen: Good or Bad for the Neighborhood?

The Pilsen neighborhood has been at the center of battles over gentrification. Now the longtime Mexican American community is facing a new twist involving old buildings.

Aldermen Weigh in on Chicago Casino Locations, City Labor Law

Alds. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), Nicholas Sposato (38th Ward) and Jason Ervin (28th Ward) discuss casino locations and other pressing City Council news.

FaceApp Raises Broader Privacy Concerns. Here’s What You Need to Know.

A photo of “Chicago Tonight” host Phil Ponce, center, is edited by FaceApp to illustrate younger and older versions of him.

As the popularity of a photo-transforming app has skyrocketed, so has new concern over privacy. Derek Eder of Chicago-based company DataMade weighs in.

Why Are There So Many Fireflies in Chicago?

(terry priest / Flickr)

You’re not crazy. A local expert says people are seeing “substantially more flashing activity in the evening.” He tells us why there are so many of our favorite summertime bug – and why they light up.

House Hunting: Design Competition Selects Bungalow for the 21st Century

A design by Greg Tamborino, winner of the “Disruptive Design Chicago” competition. (Rendering courtesy Neighborhood Housing Services)

Bungalows have served Chicago families for a hundred years. Could this new design by Greg Tamborino be the bungalow of the future? Blair Kamin weighs in.

Historian: White Power Movement Has Roots in the Vietnam War

Kathleen Belew appears on “Chicago Tonight” on May 2, 2019.

In her book, “Bring the War Home,” Kathleen Belew argues that the white power movement is more organized than previously thought.

Report: NATO, at 70, Is ‘An Alliance in Crisis’

Earlier this month the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned 70. A recent report says the alliance is in “crisis,” and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO says the biggest threat to the alliance may be the U.S. itself.

Is It Time to Cut The Cord and Leave Cable TV?

(StockSnap / Pixabay)

With more and more alternatives to cable television, is it time for you to cut the cord?

‘The Torture Machine’ Recounts 50 Years of Fighting Police Misconduct

From the murder of Fred Hampton to the Jon Burge torture ring, a new book by attorney Flint Taylor recounts the fight for justice in the face of racism and police misconduct in Chicago.

Survey: Nearly Half of Chicago Seniors Have Considered Moving Away

(sabinevanerp / Pixabay)

What do seniors want from Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot? A new survey offers her a wish list.

How, and Why, Chicago Has Nonpartisan Elections

The push for nonpartisan elections began after the 1983 election of former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. What it means for elections today.

Illinois Watchdog Group Releases ‘Guide to Fighting Robocalls’


Some robocalls are helpful, but most – representing politicians or telemarketers – have become an annoying fact of life. We speak with the author of a new guide aimed at preventing those automated calls.

‘Let the People See’ Dives Deep into Murder of Emmett Till

A new book takes a close look at the murder of Emmett Till, and suggests that our memories of the horrific crime can sometimes deceive us.