Duaa Eldeib, who came to ProPublica Illinois from the Chicago Tribune, believes she succeeds as a journalist every time she tells an untold story. In the third of a series of Q&As with ProPublica Illinois staffers, Eldeib talked with ProPublica Emerging Reporter Andrea Salcedo.
What inspired you to become a journalist?
I’ve always loved writing. But it wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered how much I enjoyed sitting across from someone, asking them questions and listening to them tell me their story. When I joined my high school newspaper, I realized there was a way to marry reporting and writing, and that this was a career. I was, like, “Alright, this is it. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”
What has been the most rewarding experience as a journalist?
I remember clearly the first time I watched someone who was wrongly convicted walk out of prison. She was a mother who had been convicted of killing her son, and I’d written about her case. She had been in prison for almost eight years. The day she was going to be released, her family and her other son were there. I stood on the sidelines and just observed. Her son came to her and she started crying these tears of joy. I remember being there for that moment and thinking, “She had been locked up for all these years and now she has to restart her life.” In that moment, she wasn’t angry. She was hopeful.
What are you interested in investigating with ProPublica Illinois?
Typically, I write about people in the shadows. I write about people society doesn’t really pay a lot of attention to. I write about the juvenile justice system. I write about kids in the Department of Children and Family Services. I write about the poor. I write about the disadvantaged. That has been the most fulfilling. That is where I can effect the most change [and] what I’d like to continue to do as long as I’m able.
Who are some of your favorite journalists?
I look around Chicago and I feel so lucky to be in the company of so many incredible reporters and writers. Any reporter who is able to effect change through reporting is somebody that I admire.
What are some underreported stories in Illinois that you wish had more coverage?
There are so many stories out there and not enough journalists to cover them. We can all find a nook or a niche in a corner of our city that we haven’t written about. Those are the stories that we should be writing.
How do you hope your stories with ProPublica Illinois will spark change?
Change is hard to measure. There’s the change in a law or change in a policy, which is outstanding. But then there’s also a more organic definition. If I’m able to tell a story that hasn’t been told before, I feel like I will have succeeded.
In some of my past stories, I’ve written about kids who had been ignored and even failed by the system. Then I sat down with them, I heard their story, and then we were about to tell that story. When it came out, they responded by saying, “Thank you for telling my story. Thank you for listening to me. No one would listen to me before this.” That’s a remarkable feeling. That’s why I think we do what we do.
What has been the biggest lesson journalism has taught you?
There’s no such thing as a small story. Every story affects somebody, somewhere, somehow. If you’re able to reach that person, then you’ve done your job.