Today, we’re taking you all the way back to 1999, to a classroom in the northwest suburbs.
In that classroom, a shy first grader was struggling to learn how to read. “What are you going to do when you grow up?” her teacher asked. “My mom will just read things to me,” the girl replied.
The teacher sent her home with Hooked on Phonics.
Soon, the young girl was devouring National Geographic, the Sun-Times and the RedEye.
That young girl, Kelly Bauer, years later became Block Club Chicago’s Breaking News Editor — and the woman the Chicago Journalists Association is honoring tonight as Journalist of the Year.
If you’ve been around here a while, you know what an outsized role Kelly plays in bringing you the news.
Since Block Club’s launch in 2018, she’s written an astounding 3,154 stories, has reported daily on how COVID-19 affects Chicagoans and broke the Loretto Hospital vaccine scandal wide open. The investigative stories led to an FBI probe and the city taking over vaccines at the hospital, and they were lauded by the Washington Post.
Behind the scenes, she’s answered hundreds of questions on our free COVID-19 hotline and live-tweeted COVID-19 press conferences without complaint for 18 months.
Media columnist Robert Feder has called Kelly “local journalism’s breakout star of the year,” and Chicago magazine named her the city’s “Best Watchdog.”
We know her as relentlessly talented, fearless and ethical without ego, a prolific journalist whose heart is truly in serving our readers.
I asked Kelly how we could best celebrate her Chicago Journalist of the Year honor. She didn’t say flowers, or a year’s supply of hot dogs — her favorite. Or even a raise.
Instead, she said she’d like Block Club to invest in more investigative journalism. Seriously. She’s pretty incredible, huh?
In honor of Kelly’s achievements and dedication to serving Chicago, we’re launching the inaugural Block Club Investigative Fund today. The fund will help our newsroom expose wrongdoings, shine a light on solutions and hold our elected officials accountable.
If Kelly’s work has mattered to you, please thank her by donating to the fund today. Every dollar raised will be reinvested in our investigative journalism, a mission important to Kelly.
Thank you for your constant support — and cheers to Kelly!