Best Reason to Stay Up Late on Twitter

@PeterNickeas

Critics' Picks

Several years ago, Peter Nickeas had to make a big career decision: landscaping or journalism? He chose the latter, to the detriment of many lawns in suburban Addison, where Nickeas ran Green Pete's Lawn Care, and to the general betterment of Chicago crime reporting. As one of the Tribune's overnight "violence and mayhem" newshounds, the 28-year-old works 10 PM till 8 AM four nights a week. During at least one of those grueling graveyard shifts—which demand a little writing and lots of driving to crime scenes—he'll daydream about the safe, pastoral monotony of mowing grass. But most of the time he's too busy prying details from cops, witnesses, or victims to grow wistful. On Twitter, Nickeas tells the stories behind his stories; his feed is packed with the kind of compelling color that breaking-news pieces don't call for: the particular gallows humor of police-scanner chatter ("We're at the scene on Perry, as in William 'the Refrigerator' Perry"), gruff interactions with police at the sites of shootings (he arrives at some of them before the authorities), and tales from the terrifying brink of becoming the news (most recently, a hysterical man threatened Nickeas with a gun). "There are a lot of bizarre, funny, and sad things—the overnight [shift] runs the whole range of emotions," he says. "If you spend night after night out on the streets, you're going to experience some shit—hookers soliciting, street fights—and that's good for the reporting: we see the immediate aftermath of violence and get to explain it in a way that few people do."