The Illustrated Press Keeps ‘Night Watch’ on Justice for Immigrants

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The Illustrated Press is a two-person shop dedicated to “the seamless blending of traditional reportage with narrative-driven illustration.” We interviewed Darryl Holliday, the team’s writer/reporter, about their new work “Night Watch.” The graphic novel-style piece about the interfaith Broadview Detention Center vigil sketches out the work of Sisters Pat Murphy and JoAnn Persch, two people LIRS often looks to as we promote alternatives to detention.

Holliday, who has written for the Chicago Sun-Times, GapersBlock, and The Columbia Chronicle, currently works with the McCormick Foundation’s journalism program.  His partner E. N. Rodriguez, the team’s illustrator, is a graphic designer for The Columbia Chronicle and has directed the art in various city publications, including R_Wurd, a youth-journalism magazine based out of Columbia College Chicago. You can see them both in the photo to the right, hard at work.

“Night Watch” (click to see an entire page, zoom in with Ctrl + to get a clear look) was published in The Progressive‘s August print edition and will be available in a book The Illustrated Press will release in early September. You can find them on Facebook to learn more.

We caught up with Holliday via email to ask him about “Night Watch” and what it’s like to break new ground with this style of journalism.

What’s The Illustrated Press, and how does it fit into your passion for journalism?

The Illustrated Press is a small press news outlet started by my partner, Erik, and I a little more than a year ago.  We take our love for comic books and combine it with journalistic reporting—all of the people in our stories exist in our city and all of the word bubbles are direct quotes.

I’d say it fits into my passion for journalism because it’s engaging, immersive, and strives to be a new medium for storytelling. I’m a metro/city reporter by trade, so comics journalism really satisfies my narrative streak. The potential for broadening the reach of the urban experience is inspiring. I think of journalism essentially as a means to create connections and understanding between people, so, ideally, our stories support that cause.

How does the graphic approach you’re taking speak to younger readers who might be tuned out of traditional media?

I think it hits them where they live, so to speak. Traditional media is in flux right now, and yet media as a whole is thriving. Younger readers tend to be more tuned into technology and the Internet (where most of media growth is occurring), and, if they’re anything like how I was at that age, they tend to find comics, cartoons, and illustration naturally appealing. Fortunately, comics, journalism, technology, and the Internet fit together quite nicely.

Here’s a great example of how kids interact innately with news when illustration is factored in.

How did The Illustrated Press hit on the idea of writing about immigration detention in general, and the Broadview Detention Center vigil in particular?

I went on an overnight print assignment to the Broadview Detention Center several years ago when I first moved to the city. I found the experience moving—to the point that I’ve never forgotten it. So when the opportunity arose to go back and really show the people that are affected by immigration laws on a daily basis, we jumped at the chance. It’s one thing to write about the issues involved immigration and detention centers, but being able to show families at one of the most difficult times of their lives was important to us.

What surprised you most when you researched “Night Watch”?

Without question, the degrees to which deportees are chained. Secondly, the difficulty in obtaining useful information from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Do you see connections between immigration detention and the “big picture” of issues The Illustrated Press covers?

We leaned toward covering stories about some of the most vulnerable people in the city, so, in that sense, the connections between immigration detention, large-scale home foreclosures, poverty, student debt, etc., all follow in that bigger picture.

“Night Watch” is relatively new. What kind of impact are you hoping it will have on readers?

We’re hoping it’ll help put a face on a conversation that all too often isn’t spoken about in terms of human beings and the disproportionate struggles that certain groups have to deal with on a daily basis.

Any plans for follow-up, or for other pieces that touch on immigration? 

We definitely haven’t ruled it out. I’d love to connect with organizations that work with immigrants and immigration issues to create a project through partnership. Groups such as your own are often the first to pay detailed attention to important issues on the ground level. I’d be interested in working with groups that are involved in those types of under-reported stories.

A good example of that is this recent story from The Cartoon Movement in partnership with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE).

[Editor’s Note: Watch this space later this week for an interview with JJIE’s Ryan Schill on his reporting for “Jessica Colotl: In the Eye of the Storm”]

Who are your heroes in journalism, and how does “Night Watch” aim to achieve what you’ve seen them do with their work?

Studs Terkel always comes to mind first when I think of my journalistic influence in terms of The Illustrated Press. I’ve always loved the way his writing paints the picture of his subject, and yet almost all of the words he writes are directly from his sources. He was a consummate storyteller. The narrative in “Night Watch” is influenced by that sort of people-first perspective.

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