Robert K. Elder (born January 20, 1976) is an American journalist, author and film columnist.
Early life and education
During his academic career, Elder ran the campus publication The Oregon Voice. He annotated and archived Ken Kesey's personal papers at the university's Knight Library.
Elder has published in The New York Times, Premiere, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Salon.com and The Oregonian, among other publications. In the late 1990s, Elder worked for several publications and changed his byline to "Robert K. Elder" after working with another Rob Elder at the San Jose Mercury News.
Elder teaches journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, as well as feature writing and entertainment reporting at Columbia College Chicago. A former member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, Elder has taught film classes at Facets Film School. In 2000, Elder was hired as a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune.
In 2005, Elder edited John Woo: Interviews, the first authoritative English-language chronicle of the life, legacy and career of film director John Woo. He has also contributed to books on poker, comic books, film design and author Neil Gaiman.
In June 2006, Elder debunked the long-believed Chicago legend that Del Close had donated his skull for use as a stage prop to the Goodman Theatre. While Close had willed his skull to the theater to serve as Yorick in productions of Hamlet, the delivery of the skull never happened, due to medical and legal issues, and it was cremated along with the rest of Close's body.
On April 22, 2009, Elder was among 53 editorial employees laid off from the Chicago Tribune. The following month, Elder was named contributing editor to Stop Smiling magazine.
In June 2009, Elder founded the Web 2.0 company Odd Hours Media LLC, which launched the user-generated sites ItWasOverWhen.com and ItWasLoveWhen.com. Both sites attracted more than one million hits within a few months. In late 2009, Sourcebooks signed the sites to a two-book deal. It Was Over When: Tales of Romantic Dead Ends was available April 2011.
In May 2010, after seven years of research, Elder released the book Last Words of the Executed. The book includes a foreword by Studs Terkel. Described as an oral history of capital punishment in the United States, Last Words of the Executed documents the final statements of death row prisoners. Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said, "This is a powerful, haunting book." In his foreword, Terkel wrote, "What I will remember most about this book is its poetry in the speech of people at the most traumatic moment of their lives."
In January 2011, Elder released the book The Film That Changed My Life, a compilation of interviews with 30 film directors discussing the films that shaped their careers and, in turn, cinema history. The book includes interviews with Rian Johnson on Annie Hall, Danny Boyle on Apocalypse Now and Kevin Smith on Slacker. Chicago Tribune film critic and former At the Movies co-host Michael Phillips has called the book, "A great and provocative read...it's addictive." Film critic Leonard Maltin said, "You'll have a hard time putting this book down."
Elder joined DNAinfo Chicago in May 2012 as its managing editor and part of the company's first national expansion. In 2013, he was named the Lake County Editor for the Chicago Sun-Times. He went on to become editor-in-chief Sun-Times Media Local, overseeing 36 of the company's suburban publications. In 2014, he was named vice president of Digital Content, founding a guest editor program featuring people such as Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan, author Scott Turow ("Presumed Innocent") and astronaut Jim Lovell. Elder also started a podcast network at the Sun-Times, hosting "The Big Questions", one of four initial shows.
In 2015, he became the director of Digital Product Development and Strategy for Crain Communications.
In July 2016, Elder published his seventh book, Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park'', a hardcover coffee table book that told the author's life story through rare images, objects and letters. Included in the book: A little-seen poem that revealed Hemingway's first love and a note that suggested an affair with his sister-in-law. The book received praise from authors such as Garrison Keillor, Jonathan Eig and Scott Turow, who called Hidden Hemingway "An invaluable book for anyone interested in Hemingway or the development of a major creative mind.”