Behind the Byline: Reporter Andres Correa on historic mayoral election and growing up in Chicago

Cassidy Jackson, Audio Editor

[Excerpt of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s victory speech]: “Today you did more than make history. You created a movement for change.”

CASSIDY JACKSON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Cassidy Jackson. Thanks for tuning in. April 2, 2019 will stand as an important day in Chicago history. Lori Lightfoot was officially elected as Chicago’s first openly gay and black woman mayor. In a highly anticipated election between Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Lightfoot won in a landslide, grabbing 73.7 percent of the votes, according to the Chicago board of elections website.

ANDRES CORREA: So I covered the Chicago mayoral election last night, and it was a historic night.

CASSIDY JACKSON: This is Andres Correa, an assistant city editor for The Daily. Andres attended Lightfoot’s campaign watch party in Chicago on Tuesday.

ANDRES CORREA: It was full of press. From what I thought, I was the only college student that was there reporting for a college newspaper, which was really interesting. So, I got there around seven when the polls closed, and by 7:30 it was already over. Within the hour, the AP had already projected that she was the next mayor.

CASSIDY JACKSON: You said at least from what you knew, you were the only college journalist there covering this event. What was that experience like?

ANDRES CORREA: When I got there, I was next to Chicago Sun-Times reporters, Chicago Tribune reporters, Wall Street Journal reporters, basically every major news outlet was there and they were already like glued to their computers writing. I was speaking to this guy. I think he was with the Chicago Sun-Times, and he was a reporter there. And he was like, “as soon as she’s done with her speech, we publish.” And for me, being a college journalist, that was kind of like overwhelming in that sense. Looking back on it, I’m so glad that I went, because I learned so much, and I think in terms of just reporting and moving forward and just getting to The Daily now, it makes … such a big event makes any other smaller events so much more easier and manageable to like report on and not feel super overwhelmed.

CASSIDY JACKSON: What was it like attending this event, and in the end, seeing the huge historical aspect?

ANDRES CORREA: I’m also from Chicago, I was born and raised in Chicago. In terms of just being a Chicagoan and not necessarily a journalist, it was super interesting to see that. Her voice is like a different Chicago that I have not seen before and I’m not accustomed to. So I’m really interested to see what Chicago is going to look like under Lightfoot. And seeing history being made is kind of this super surreal moment where you just don’t know…it doesn’t really hit you.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Andres said there was one part of Lightfoot’s victory speech that resonated with him.

[Excerpt of Lightfoot’s victory speech]: “A student heading off to college asked me an important question. ‘When I graduate,’ he asked, ‘Why should I come back here to Chicago? What will you do in four years to convince me to come back?’ Questions like this are on the minds of a lot of people. Should I move here? Should I stay? Our duty is to make sure the answer is a resounding yes.”

ANDRES CORREA: One of the things that she said in her speech was that a lot of kids that are graduating from college, see themselves moving out of Chicago. And I think she ushered in this idea that a lot of kids from Chicago might now want to move back and have this vision of a different Chicago than they’ve grown up in.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Having grown up in Chicago, Andres relates first-hand to the negative image Chicago kids can have of their home city.

ANDRES CORREA: You know, under the Rahm Emanuel administration, in my high school experience, I had three teachers’ strikes. So I spent a lot of time not in school, because of the lack of education and the resources. Coming to Northwestern, the amount of involvement and the amount of time and money that Evanston residents put into education and whatnot and the amount of support they have. And then coming from Chicago public school, my elementary school did not have those resources or anything like that. We didn’t have like the best books. We didn’t have all that stuff. I took music like once a week. All those classes that are so like fundamental and people really enjoy, I didn’t have that growing up. So I’m really excited to see what Chicago will look like for future generations of young kids coming up.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Considering you’re born and raised in Chicago, what has your image of Chicago been, and I guess where do you hope to see it shift?

ANDRES CORREA: One of the major things is that, for example, I went to the best public school in the city of Chicago. I had to test into it through the selective enrollment process. And I commuted an hour and a half every day to get to that school. Me and my friends calculated it, and I spent almost three months of my life just commuting to get a better education. And when I think about a new Chicago, kids shouldn’t have to do that just to get the same quality education that they deserve. That is something that I want the city to change in terms of education. I think that every kid has the right regardless of where you’re from to have quality education. And I think going to a really good public school, that you had a test into, it really taught me that. Because to be frank, I don’t know if I’d be at Northwestern if I didn’t go to the same school that I went to for high school.

CASSIDY JACKSON: In the news, there’s been a lot of coverage of high schools in the Chicago area lacking journalism programs completely, or being really deemphasized and underfunded. Was your high school different in that aspect?

ANDRES CORREA: Yeah, so we had surprisingly a very robust student journalism, so we had a newspaper, we had a broadcast studio. Very few Chicago public high schools have access to those resources. So we had that, I was on the yearbook staff, so there was a class just to do yearbook. Most kids don’t get to do that. I guess looking back, I mean, in high school I didn’t know I wanted to be a journalist, I didn’t know that was anything I wanted to … I always say that journalism found me and not that I kind of was like, “Yeah, I want to be a journalist.”

CASSIDY JACKSON: So you’ve been basically covering this election from its start to the end. Is there any aspect that sticks out to you?

ANDRES CORREA: After the election, Lightfoot was getting off the stage. And she has a daughter and she has a wife. And her wife and her daughter were leaving the stage, and her daughter goes underneath the tape. Obviously I’m there and then everyone else from the media comes and they’re all taking photos and whatnot, and then the mom comes over and she just grabs her real quick. I guess that moment really stuck out for me because I was like, this little girl’s life is going to change and she’s not gonna be able to just do whatever she wants anymore. There’s a difference between you know, being in the here at The Daily in Evanston, and, you know, looking up all these candidates and then just writing it about it. And to actually be physically present somewhere in a space where these people are not just like candidates anymore. They’re actually people, they have families. They’re … You know, they have emotions and they are real.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Do you see yourself covering more politics?

ANDRES CORREA: It’s really hard to stay connected to Chicago, even though we’re only like, what is it, 13 miles away from Chicago. And I think as much as Northwestern tries to make it seem as though, you know, you’re only a train ride away from Chicago, it’s really difficult to keep those connections if you’re not physically there all the time. It was a way for me to stay connected to Chicago and understand what is going on in the city, and kind of feel still connected to home. And I think The Daily could benefit from that. A lot of the times we always say, you know, “Oh, we want to go to the city. We want to do those types of the coverage” and stuff like that. I think a lot of times the issue is not knowing and not having sources and not really building those relationships. And if I can in any way help build those relationships just because I’m from there, and like, make other kids excited about it as well, I think that’d be really, really cool and interesting.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Thank you for listening. This is Cassidy Jackson, and I’ll see you next time!

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