Had Steve Metsch been able to cover David DeJesus’ appearance at Advocate Children’s Hospital last year, I likely would not be writing this column.
DeJesus, a member of the Chicago Cubs last year, visited children at the hospital, a part of Christ Medical Center, in late August. The night before, I received an email from a SouthtownStar editor (I was freelancing there at the time) asking me to fill in for Metsch.
I accepted the assignment and, while waiting in the hospital lobby for DeJesus to arrive, bumped into Jeff Vorva, the new editor of the Reporter. Vorva had covered the Cubs for the Southtown longer than DeJesus played for the team.
But the most recent stop on his journalistic journey was at the Reporter. Not long after covering the DeJesus appearance, Vorva sent me an email asking if I was interested in working for the paper.
I enjoyed freelancing for the Southtown and had done it for a long time, but a fulltime position at the Reporter sounded appealing. I interviewed for the job and was hired a few days later.
Thanks, Steve. Had you covered the DeJesus assignment, who knows what I’d be doing today.
I see Steve quite a bit in the towns we both cover, especially Oak Lawn. He’s a solid, veteran reporter with whom I enjoy competing.
Of course, that’s a big part of what I enjoy about working at the Reporter. I’m covering many of the same towns that I wrote about while at the Southtown. I know Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, and Evergreen Park—the communities, the issues and their leaders.
The transition was simple. I merely told mayors, trustees and school district officials that I was still around, just working for a different paper. And covering the same towns means there’s no learning curve, no period of adjustment.
At first, I passed on an offer to write a weekly column. But when my closest elementary school friend died, I had to say something—commemorate him in some way.
And so the B-Side was born.
Unfortunately, I had to use the column space again to recall my relationship with a close high school friend who passed away. I’ll be just fine if I don’t have to write such a column a third time.
We struggled with a name for the column at first. But Vorva knows music, and I once said his musical knowledge was so deep that he knew the names of all the B-sides—the other side of a 45 record for all of you under 45.
Without hesitation, Val Draus, our sales rep, looked up from her desk and said, “The B-Side. That’s it.”
Writing the B-Side is one my favorite parts of the job each week, and I enjoy the feedback I’ve received. People are reading the column—my serious and not-so-serious musings about my family, the community, the old days and so forth. Thanks to everyone who takes the time.
The B-Side and ImPRESSions, Vorva’s weekly column, are two highlights of the Reporter that he and I work hard to produce each week. But the columns are just part what make us proud of the paper.
Jeff’s got a great eye for page design and creative flair, especially when it comes to headline writing. I possess neither skill. When I arrived, we struck up an agreement of sorts. He’d lay out the paper, write the headlines and edit copy while I kept a close eye on the six towns the Reporter covers—writing news, crime and feature stores and staying in touch with my sources.
It’s been a pretty good strategy, and readers have reacted positively to the look and content of the paper.
I’ve worked on some memorable stories during my first year. I cover Oak Lawn, the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as towns where the political tension isn’t so evident, such as Evergreen Park, Worth and Chicago Ridge.
I’ve written about the comeback of James Sexton, the Evergreen Park mayor who fought and beat West Niles Virus. I’ve known Jim a long time and truly admire what he went through during his return.
I covered an ongoing debate about basketball hoops in Oak Lawn as well the sorrowful, unfortunate death of Brittany Wawrzyniak, a story that brought a great deal of heartache to the Worth community. I wrote about an Oak Lawn grandmother who allegedly bludgeoned her granddaughter to death, a shocking story to be sure.
Former Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Mike Kuafmann’s quote, “She expressed love for the child” will stick with me for a long time.
I’ve covered power outages in Oak Lawn and Trustee Alex Olejniczak’s ongoing crusade to make ComEd accountable as well the future of the fire department in Chicago Ridge. I’ve updated our readers about myriad crimes that have occurred in our communities.
I’ve watched Christ Medical Center expand, Stony Creek Promenade in Oak Lawn seemingly rise out of an empty lot at 111th Street and Cicero Avenue and various new businesses spring up throughout our coverage area.
We never know from one week to the next what’s going to be news in the Reporter. Planning goes a long way, but news happens at a moment’s notice, and that’s what draws most of to the business in the first place.
I hope you enjoy what we strive to do accomplish week, and if you have thoughts and ideas on making it a better product, we’re all ears.
By the way, while Vorva and I continue to labor at the Reporter and our colleague Metsch waves the banner for our worthiest competitor, DeJesus has been traded twice.
The Cubs sent him to the Washington Nationals shortly after the hospital visit. Four days later, he was traded again, this time to the Tampa Bay Rays—his fifth team in 11 years.