What was that? What just whizzed by?
Was that a year? Where did it go so quickly?
Yes, dear readers, it’s been a little more than a year since I became the alleged “new sheriff’’ in town and took over this fine newspaper as editor.
That year just flew by.
My hope was to take an already strong newspaper and make it even more compelling and fun. We’re running bigger photos, bigger headlines and putting a picture of Fred Flintstone on the normally conservative and reserved opinion page shows we like to have fun.
We told fun stories of your friends and neighbors accomplishing fantastic things.
In the past 12 months, cancer survivors ran in triathlons, a kid sang on stage with Bruce Springsteen, a hockey player won a silver medal in the Olympics and a Hooters waitress compete in an international competition. We wrote about local comedians, the health of Cardinal George, a wheelchair basketball pioneer, a teenager who was praised by the governor and president for her volunteer business of making stuffed hearts to comfort people, heroic cops and firemen, a high school volleyball team that finished first in the state and a high school football team that finished second.
And that’s just the tip of the ice burg.
Also in the past dozen months, we have been keeping our readers up to date on the 100th anniversaries of Chicago Ridge and Worth. We’ve followed stories about basketball courts in Oak Lawn, the ups and downs of the merged baseball and softball leagues in Palos Hills and Hickory Hills and some of the business developments and the great high school football season in Evergreen Park.
We wrote about the weather.
It was cold.
And we wrote about a couple of storms that passed the area that could have been a lot worse. We even wrote a story about an advertisement from a man’s mail in downstate Washington that reached Moraine Valley in Palos Hills during a tornado. We wrote about school closings – no, not because of the weather. We wrote about the permanent closing of Mt. Assisi High School in Lemont and St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park.
Celebrities came to town.
Governor hopeful Bruce Rauner campaigned in Hickory Hills. Olympic hero Bonnie Blair was at Stagg to speak in the winter and the Gin Blossoms played music there in the spring. Bobby Hull and Mike Ditka gave some flavor to a couple of area liquor store events. Former Cub David DeJesus and current Cubs players Edwin Jackson and Chris Coghlan stopped by Advocate Children’s Hospital to brighten kids’ days. And Dick Biondi, a legendary DJ who is all of 83 years old, climbed a 60-foot fire department ladder during an event at Standard Bank Park in Crestwood.
Yes, there were also the controversial stories as well as the sad stories that we hate to write but as long as we had to, we were going to do them as thoroughly as we could even if it meant ticking some people off. That’s a part of the job that won’t go away.
We made some friends. We made some enemies. We hope we made more friends than enemies.
The inner circle of the Reporter is small. Joining me is reporter Bob Rakow and designer Kari Nelson. They are the heart and soul of the newspaper. We have some outstanding freelance writers helping the cause and this summer we were blessed with some young, talented interns who also graced the paper with their work.
I can tell you that being an editor is a heck of a lot different than being a reporter. Being responsible for a whole section instead of a couple of stories is a shock to the system. We could have an outstanding section with a great front page but if we screwed something up such as a name in an obituary, it really hits me hard.
And every time the phone rings, you never know how your week may change. It could be a tip on a hot story. It could be a tip on a story that might not be so hot. It could be someone calling to complain. It could be someone who just wants to talk. It’s like spinning a roulette wheel.
One of the worst calls I received from a reader came late in 2013 and an older woman said she wanted to cancel her subscription because she couldn’t see anymore. She was going blind. She said she loved the paper for many years and couldn’t wait until Thursday’s to read it.
She even cried during the conversation.
I was darn near moved enough to volunteer to go to her residence and read her the paper every week.
One of the best calls from a reader came last month when a long-time subscriber said that our July 10 edition was great and for the first time she read every single story. The next day, former Regional Publishing publisher Charles Richards came in and, even though he was mad at me for a minute for a wisecrack I made, said that edition was the best in the history of the Reporter. High praise indeed.
That was the edition we had front page stories on a Fourth of July fatality in Bridgeview, an update on a former Oak Lawn resident who had three open-heart surgeries before he turned three, Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett’s outrage with ComEd on the city’s power outage woes and a look at the new Mother McAuley principal.
What will the next year be like?
Some of you may have heard rumors about the future about Regional Publishing and, like so many people I have interviewed over the years, I have to use their line and say that nothing is official and if anything does become official, we will let you know.
In the meantime, we will continue to do what we have to do. We will keep you informed. We will hopefully give you a couple of laughs or make you shed a tear or two.
Most of all, we will try to have fun.