In a piece for The New Yorker last year, Evan Osnos, who has been the magazine’s China correspondent since 2008, wrote about a leader who rose through the ranks of the political party that has dominated his city for the better part of the past century to assume a position of power once held by his father. But the story’s subject isn’t a Communist Party boss. He is Richard M. Daley,whose sixth term as the Democratic mayor of Chicago ends Monday. Osnos’ profile offers rare insight into the life of a man who is well known for his contentious relationship with the press. “The Daley Show” appeared in the magazine on March 8, 2010, before Daley announced that he did not intend to seek re-election.
Osnos has been familiar with Daley since he interned at the Chicago Tribune while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. “He struck me as a fairly unique American political figure,” the writer said. Around the time of Barack Obama’s historic election, Osnos, who came to The New Yorker from the Tribune’s Beijing bureau, pitched a story to the magazine‘s editors about the man who wields seemingly unchecked power in the new president’s political training grounds. The editors were very supportive of the idea. “They were interested in understanding, ‘Who was the guy who controlled the city that produced Obama?'” Osnos said.
To do the story, Osnos knew he would need to spend a lot of time with the mayor. Given Daley’s fiery attitude toward reporters this could have been an insurmountable obstacle. “For a New Yorker piece of this kind, you need to have a lot of access,” he said. “I wasn’t going to do the story unless I knew I was going to have access to Daley to interview him repeatedly.” He approached Jacquelyn Heard, the mayor’s press secretary, with the idea in early 2009. While the administration had the “usual level of concern” expected from any political operation, Osnos was guaranteed the time he needed with the mayor.