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When I was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, I was sent on stories around the world. But over the years, the assignment that haunted me most was one of the first I ever had – covering crime back home in Chicago.

In the 1990’s, what we called the “Cop Shop” was always busy. Crime reporters worked out of the pressroom of the old Chicago Police headquarters at 11th and State, a drab, dingy place that trembled with the rumbling “L” trains behind it.

Many don’t realize that America’s urban violence was even worse then than it is today. In 1991, for instance, there were 927 homicides in Chicago. For reporters that meant a daily average of 2.54 possible murder stories.

Born and raised on the South Side, my byline back then was my maiden name, Linnet Myers. For me, working the Cop Shop and the Criminal Court beat at 26th and California meant familiar locations across the city were transformed into crime scenes day after day. I struggled to convince Tribune editors that each killing was a story that should be told. Often, I failed.

But today I see more and more Chicagoans recognizing violent crime as the crisis that it is. More acknowledge that it is not normal. Not acceptable. That every child in this city is our child and must be allowed to grow up in peace.

More, too, are making serious attempts to truly understand the complex tragedy of urban violence – and solve it. I’m heartened to see that happening.

Since leaving the Tribune I’ve written features, speeches and a novel that was translated and published in France, titled Les Ombres de Chicago and loosely based on a homicide I covered. It is my sole work of fiction but along with hundreds of newspaper and magazine stories, my nonfiction has appeared in several books, including America’s Best Newspaper Writing (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006) and Solutions to Social Problems (Allyn & Bacon, 2001).

During my career I’ve also won several awards, including a national Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Linnet Burden


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