Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Adventures in Reporting: Shadowing Sanitation Engineers

Stephanie Ewing

Shadowing from the car.

Shadowing from the car.

I firmly believe in both paying it forward and giving back. So when Amanda Sims, an undergrad student and classmate from my Echo magazine workshop, needed a ride for her feature, I happily volunteered.

Besides, the job sounded interesting: we would be shadowing a female city sanitation engineer (more ingloriously known as garbage collector) to learn what’s it’s like to be a female employee in a traditionally male dominated field.

What I didn’t realize (at first) is that I’d need to get up at 4 a.m. in order to pick up Amanda and our first photographer, Johnno, in Edgewater and Pilsen, respectively, and make it to the Beverly neighborhood on the city’s southwest side in order to catch Xavis, the wonderful, exuberant subject of the story, at the start of her route at 6:30.

Behind the Wheel

Behind the Wheel

We were excited to be on the road and following Xavis, even if it was obscenely early by most people’s standards. Unfortunately, that first day ended up being somewhat of a wash when Xavis’ partner declined to let us follow along, even though we got permission from the union and the city. So we packed it in, wanting to respect her wishes, and headed back to campus at 8:30.

But that didn’t stop Amanda—she got us set up for another shoot the following week with Xavis and a different partner.

So, we set out to Beverly later in the morning to shadow Xavis and her new partner, Coco—another woman! And since we brought a female photographer with us this time, the soon-to-be-graduated Sarah Lawhead, it was definitely a cool girl-power assignment.

Student Amanda Sims with Coco

Student Amanda Sims with Coco

Beverly, where Xavis works, looks like it was transplanted from the suburbs to Chicago’s south side with its wide, tree-lined streets and huge houses.

Big, Beautiful Beverly House and its trash

Big, Beautiful Beverly House and its trash

We really couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. I trailed between a block and a few car lengths behind the sky-blue garbage truck. Amanda and Sarah walked alongside the women, taking pictures and writing notes.

Student Sarah Lawhead Photographs our Subjects

Student Sarah Lawhead Photographs our Subjects

I had many things that I could (probably should) have been doing that afternoon, but I’m glad I was able to help out my colleagues and my publication. And, I really loved meeting Xavis and Coco—those dedicated women bust their buns to haul our trash away!

This has probably been one of my favorite reporting adventures in Columbia College Chicago’s Journalism MA program, but there is still a month or so left, and I have a Diwali celebration to attend and some more Pagans to meet. So much to learn, so little time!

Adventures in Reporting: Shadowing Sanitation Engineers

I firmly believe in both paying it forward and giving back. So when Amanda Sims, an undergrad student and classmate from my Echo magazine workshop, needed a ride for her …

Journalism MA Stephanie Ewing, stephanie.ewing@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience