Answers after show canceled

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (08.30.2016)

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Styx cancelation print version

Shortly before Styx — one of the biggest rock bands to visit Lafayette — was set to play Lafayette Theater, I learned that the show was on the road to being canceled. After confirming that and obtaining the initial release from the band’s PR liaison, I followed up to answer readers’ questions and find out what happened.

My PR contact set me up with the band’s manager, and the story that resulted was widely read.

Actor’s comedy chops shine

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (04.28.2016)

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JC- (w) Tommy Beardmore

Tommy Beardmore print PDF

When I received word from Tommy Beardmore that his film — “The Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man” — was set to show at a West Lafayette movie theater, I knew this had the makings of a solid story.

Our readers enjoy the success of people with local connections, and Beardmore had grown up in Greater Lafayette and attended Purdue before moving to Chicago and New York to pursue acting. What’s more, his diverse resume and talent for comedy and drama provided great points of interest as did the film’s popularity at festivals inside and outside the U.S.

Overall, these elements opened up several angles.

Mural not graffiti, police say

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (11.20.2015)

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JC- (w) Spot mural

Spot mural print PDF

This story started to blow up on Facebook after a police officer handed The Spot Tavern a citation for graffiti. Only the art in question — a hot dog bun with male genitalia — was actually a mural commissioned by The Spot. And the business was pretty unhappy about what had happened.

So what did occur?

Finding out took plenty of phone calls by my colleague and me on the day this broke.

Well-known Lafayette resident Ila Solomon started an online petition to have the mural taken down because it was offensive. Solomon previously had pleaded guilty to failing to report a dead body — her husband had lay dead on the floor in their house for more than nine months, according to a forensic entomologist.

But when I wrote the follow-up the next day — the story linked here — the police chief told me Solomon hadn’t filed the complaint. The officer knew it wasn’t graffiti but thought the citation was the best way to handle the complaint. The city ended up determining the mural wasn’t graffiti and withdrew the citation.

The real story, then, wasn’t about Solomon. It was about how a community and the police handled privately commissioned art that was publicly visible and could be found offensive to some.

As it all ended up, The Spot’s owner had a picture of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence pasted over the offending male genitalia. And the controversy died down after that.

Marching band is no breeze

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (08.20.2015)

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Purdue band tryouts print PDF

Purdue band tryouts print PDF

The subjects of back-to-school stories often center on sports tryouts and curriculum. What can be left out are students’ activities in the arts. The dedication of band members at Purdue University — which does not offer a music major — was worth exploring.

I came at the story from the eyes of a freshman, explaining the difficulties of auditions and the challenges of combining new marching techniques with musical skill and athleticism. In doing so, I hoped to tap into a readership with ties to the “AllAmerican” Marching Band who are proud of its tradition and their memories. As it ended up, this has been one of my most shared features at the Journal & Courier.

New life in an old spot

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (04.09.2015)

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JC- (w) Town&Gown

Town & Gown print PDF

While I often write features shortly after restaurants open, this one was a little different. The newly opened Town & Gown Bistro had plenty working against it — a difficult-to-access location, a previous fire, poor parking and the reputation of being a spot where businesses fail.

But veteran chef Matt O’Neill, who once worked alongside Wolfgang Puck, saw nothing but potential for the space.

To give the story context, I dug through the Tippecanoe County assessor’s records to find out about the building and talked to previous business owners about what hadn’t worked before. With this backdrop, I unfolded O’Neill’s vision for Town & Gown’s future.

Guns N’ Roses reunites

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (12.31.2015)

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JC- (w) GunsNRoses

Guns N’ Roses print version

When Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose — one of Lafayette’s own — mended his rift with Slash, the Internet went nuts. So I decided to put something together that outlined the reported situation and tour dates. Our readers rewarded the Journal & Courier with plenty of clicks and shares.

The story also offered the opportunity for one of our producers to publish a photo gallery from our archives.

Answering a hot-button column

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (12.06.2015)

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JC- (w) Exponent column

Exponent column PDF

The then-opinions editor at The Purdue Exponent — an independent mostly student-run newspaper that covers Purdue University — unleashed a biting column about the school’s performing arts and culture presenting organization.

Purdue Convocations, he said, catered more to families, jazz fans and young children more than it did its own students. His piece drew a fierce backlash from the community not only because of its premise but also because he degraded downtown Lafayette.

I pitched to my editors an idea for answering column that contextualized the situation and pointed out some faulty premises without calling out the student. While this piece shows just 85 Facebook shares, it garnered many comments across a few social media platforms and still comes up in personal conversations.

Venue stages a comeback

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (08.23.2015)

Online version | Print PDF | June 2016 follow-up

Lafayette Theater print PDF

Lafayette Theater print PDF

On my third day as a reporter in Lafayette, I met with two entrepreneurs who had recently assumed management at Lafayette Theater, a cornerstone downtown venue. They told me their plans to lift the national profile of what has long been an underrated and, at times, beleaguered music scene in a town known for engineering and agriculture. What they related to me in that initial meeting felt like a story, but I didn’t know the town well enough to write anything about it immediately.

Six months later, I did. The entrepreneurs were bringing in major musicians, and through historical research, interviews and casual conversations, I contextualized their aim to boost the arts economy and become a regional draw.

Almost a year later, the managers told me the theater had hit a rough patch. Several concerts didn’t sell tickets as they’d thought, and the two scrambled to put together short-term solutions to keep the doors open and book a strong fall slate. That prompted this in-depth follow-up: “After some bumps, Lafayette Theater looks to future.”

Defining Grace after surgery

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (10.25.2015)

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Grace Lorton print PDF

Grace Lorton print PDF

This story came from a reader who emailed me about her granddaughter, 8-year-old Grace Lorton, who underwent surgery for Chiari malformation. After telling her mom about her intense headaches, Grace endured a major operation to correct the structural defect in the back of her brain and skull. Afterward, the third-grader found her energy sapped and any movement of her neck painful.

As I talked to the reader and Grace’s mom, it was evident that the young girl’s strength and the sense of self she found in her hobby — acting — was a powerful story. After the story ran, her family invited me to one of her shows, where I was able to see her passion and talent for her craft.



Blind Melon’s chords still ring

JC- (w) Blind Melon print front

Blind Melon print PDF

Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier (12.27.2015)

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Blind Melon lead singer Shannon Hoon is among Lafayette, Indiana’s most famous home-grown stars. Sitting in the company of Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin in the town’s music psyche, Hoon and his band reached the stratosphere of rock when “No Rain” helped its 1992 self-titled album go quadruple platinum.

Hoon died from a cocaine overdose at age 28 in 1995, but his iconic status and band still draw large swaths of fans. When Lafayette Theater announced that Blind Melon was playing shows on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day — a somewhat rare occurrence now that the musicians’ focus has gravitated toward other projects — I took a look at how the band keeps its original fans and brings in new ones.