Collecting: LeAlan Jones

Journalists Who Collect

LeAlan Jones is a freelance writer and journalist in Chicago. He began his career in journalism in 1993 at the age of 13 when he collaborated with his friend Lloyd Newman and radio producer David Isay to create Ghetto Life 101. This award-winning radio diary about growing up on Chicago’s South Side aired on National Public Radio. Jones and Newman spent ten days collecting stories on tape about their day-to-day lives; the stories ranged from throwing rocks at cars from an overpass to a harrowing encounter with Newman’s alcoholic father. 

Two years later Jones and Newman produced another radio diary called Remorse, which examined the horrifying murder of Eric Morse, a five-year-old living in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago. Again, Jones collected interviews from members of the community to produce this Peabody Award winning radio documentary. In 1996 Jones, Newman, and Isay together wrote the book Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, which was based on the previous radio programs.  Today Jones works as a freelance writer for N’Digo, a weekly paper in Chicago.


We live in a second America where the laws of the land don't apply and the laws of the street do. You must learn our America as we must learn your America, so that maybe, someday, we can become one.

LeAlan Jones in Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago 

Comprehension Questions: 

  1. What stories would you collect that best represent your neighborhood?
  2. What are some advantages in using radio to communicate ideas as opposed to visual arts?
  3. What does Jones mean when he says, “We live in a second America . . .”?