From Miami to the Midwest: Niala Boodhoo

Niala BoodhooI’m Niala Boodhoo, and I’m the Chicago-based reporter for Changing Gears.

This Great Recession has been measured by lots of numbers: job loss, foreclosures, and bankruptcies. But along with statistics, the recession has had a personal impact on workers, owners of businesses, small and large, and on our communities.

I’ll be responsible for covering these kinds of stories from Illinois as well as the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana.

I’ll be focusing on community redevelopment, and hope to tell how our region is handling the transition from manufacturing to a new identity. Like my team members, I’ll also be looking at stories about environment, food, arts and our ethnic diversity.

I’ve been a business reporter since 2000 in London, Washington and Miami, where I was born and raised. I’ve covered stories like the British economy and election of Tony Blair as Prime Minister in 2000, as well as the price of aluminum (or as they say it, alu-MIN-ium) on the London Metals Exchange, but the stories I remember the most are features about people, like a story I wrote about a curry shop owner in Bradford, England, a “curry capital’’ of the world.

For the past three years, I’ve been the multimedia business reporter for The Miami  Herald. Through newspaper articles and weekly radio and video reports, I’ve tried to tell the stories of South Florida’s business community. I covered ethnic enclaves like Little Haiti and novel ways real estate companies are dealing with the fallout from the condo market going bust.

In February, I traveled to Haiti, doing a three-part series about how people are trying to restore their livelihoods after the devastating earthquake.

Moving back to this area is a homecoming of sorts. I did most of my schooling here, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Chicago. When I left Miami for Grand Rapids at age 17, I had never seen snow before! After four winters on both sides of Lake Michigan, I can safely say I’m well-acquainted. I spent several summers in Indiana, too, in South Bend, at Notre Dame University, and one summer working for the Indianapolis Star-News.

But enough about me! I want to hear from you about the kind of stories you would like to see me do. If you have any ideas or want to talk, you can get in touch with me on Twitter, or by sending an email to changinggears (at) umich-edu. Put “Chicago stories” in the subject line. I welcome your thoughts.

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