Chicago Tribune: "Making Chicago more than a dateline"
Thousands of journalists from around the world have swept into Chicago to cover the NATO summit, putting the host city atop the international news headlines for the weekend.
But for many of the 2,200 or so credentialed journalists, Chicago is merely a dateline to a story about policymaking, protests and Afghanistan.
Shuttling between Magnificent Mile-area hotels and McCormick Place during the roughly 24-hour summit, visiting journalists may not have time for more than a taste of the city. But organizers are determined to give them at least a sample of the city's food and other attractions, much of it shipped into the convention center in the form of deep-dish pizza, guest speakers and video tours.
Chicago is the first American city other than Washington to host a NATO summit, a move engineered by President Barack Obama to shine a spotlight on his hometown. How it is cast is mostly in the hands of these visiting journalists, who come with a variety of missions, itineraries and preconceptions.
Kruger, who spent two months in Chicago in 2007 for a journalism fellowship at the Tribune, expects to see little of the city this time. Instead, his focus will be on the coalition's plan to transition security responsibilities from NATO-led forces to Afghan national security forces by the end of 2014.
"The most interesting thing for us is Afghanistan," Kruger said. "Many Afghans are afraid that when NATO leaves, their country will fall back into chaos."
Kruger is staying at the NATO-recommended Hyatt Regency Chicago on East Wacker Drive, which reserved a block of rooms for media starting at $171 per night. The clincher for Kruger was a dedicated shuttle bus to navigate the maze of street closures to McCormick Place.
McCormick Place, behind temporary barricades, will serve as a 24-hour newsroom, with a football field-size media center. A designated host area will feed world-weary journalists Lou Malnati's pizza and Vienna Beef hot dogs, as well as tastings from eight restaurants. Overhead monitors will run videos about the city, while guest speakers will give short presentations during meals.
"We're bringing Chicago to them, knowing that they may not have the opportunity to leave the McCormick Place media center," said Jennifer Martinez, Chicago NATO host committee spokeswoman.
Those venturing outside McCormick Place will have some support from ChicagoStories.org, a website created for the summit. The nonprofit project features sources and background information on everything from Chicago politics to ethnic neighborhoods.
"We want that coverage to be better than people speaking at podiums, and then a photo of somebody smashing a Starbucks," said Jonathan Eyler-Werve, who is heading up the project.
This is the first NATO summit and first trip to Chicago for Naples native Angela Vitaliano, 44, a New York-based correspondent for independent Italian daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.
Vitaliano, who is arriving Saturday morning and leaving Monday night, is hoping to capture as much about the "city of Obama" as the summit.
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--Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune