After four years of the Chronicle, and looking toward the future

Viewpoint: 

The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

A couple of years ago, I went to a wedding and, as is often the case, was seated at dinner next to someone I’d never met before.
 
  Tom Houlihan
He seemed like a nice enough guy and said he was from somewhere in the Wheaton area. I told him I lived in Flossmoor.
 
At some point he asked me what I do to keep busy during the work week. I thought for a moment then told him that I owned the local newspaper. It was the first time I’d ever used those words with anyone.
 
After that, I had plenty to say — about how we started the H-F Chronicle as an online newspaper. About how we began putting out a print edition. About the highs and lows of being a media mogul.
 
  The Chronicle team that
  started a print paper are,
  from left, Patty Houlihan,
  Eric Crump, Tom Houlihan
  and Marilyn Thomas. 

  (Chronicle file photo)

Anyone who regularly reads the Chronicle probably knows I am not the sole owner of this newspaper. There are three of us  Marilyn Thomas, Eric Crump and myself  and none of us will ever take sole credit for what’s in this publication. I have a lot of respect for Marilyn and Eric and know that I could never pull this off all by myself.
 
After my conversation with the man at the wedding I told my partners about what I’d said, and that it felt good saying it. I suggested that they try saying it every once in a while – it is, after all the truth, and just might let people know that we are taking our role in these communities very seriously.
 
When the Homewood-Flossmoor edition of the Chronicle was launched, we made a commitment to provide our communities with reliable, honest, unbiased community journalism. We have stayed true to that idea ever since.
 
We are also still volunteers. The Chronicle, obviously, has a number of print and online ads but the revenue from those goes mostly for production and distribution costs, and to pay our part-time writers. We pay ourselves a stipend each year to cover any personal tax burdens created by owning the paper but that’s about it.
 
The Chronicle’s fourth anniversary passed last month, quietly, and without any notice from the three of us. We just continued doing what we do  posting stories about people and events, great and small, in Homewood and Flossmoor.
 
I don’t have an exact number of how many stories the Chronicle has run in the last four years but it is likely to be more than 3,100. The vast majority of these were generated by us. We go to meetings, interview people in person, talk to them on the phone, scour official documents from village or school officials, read police reports and pay close attention to what’s going on in our two communities. 
 
Eric started the Chronicle in June 2014. At first, it was a Facebook page and only covered Homewood. Marilyn joined him a few months later. I came aboard in November on the condition that we cover both towns. Homewood and Flossmoor are pretty much joined at the hip and it made sense to have an H-F publication.
 
In 2015, we spent a lot of time just telling people that we existed. We’d go to the Homewood farmers market and pass out postcards with our web address. People would tell us that we should have a print edition. That sounded like a stretch — besides, isn’t print supposed to be dead in our digital age? But in September of that year we started planning for a one-time holiday print edition. My wife Patty sold some ads and we got help from the community in the form of a IndieGogo campaign that raised nearly $4,000. The first print edition came out in mid-December. We haven’t stopped since. In February, 2016, we started sending the Chronicle each month to every residential address in Homewood and Flossmoor. 
 
At this point, I have to give much of the credit for our success to Patty, who sold all our ads and watched over the Chronicle’s business side for two years. Like most everyone connected with the Chronicle, she’s a writer, but took on jobs she’d never done before, and did them better than anyone would have ever imagined. She was, for example, the driving force behind our mail distribution. Patty left the Chronicle earlier this year and is again working as a writer. All of you should know, though, that she made it possible to move from our infancy to a slightly more advanced stage.
 
Somewhere, in all of this, we became a business. Journalism is hard enough but running a business is a much tougher proposition. I think a lot about sustainability and what it will take to make the Chronicle a permanent addition to our communities. I am an old community newspaper guy and believe that every town should have a reliable, honest, unbiased news outlet. I also know that these are hard times for all newspapers – traditional advertising sources have dried up over the last 20 years and journalism jobs across the country are a fraction of what they used to be.
 
I worked for the Star for 20 years and was there when it ceased to exist in 2007. There was no community outcry from anyone when that happened, and the Star had served the South Suburbs for more than 100 years.
 
I knew all this when I helped start the Chronicle. I’d like to think that the Chronicle has a future, but am not at all sure on how we can get there together.
If you have any ideas on how this might work, I’d love to hear from you.
 
After all, I’m the guy who owns the local newspaper.
 

About Us

A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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A great community makes a great newspaper. We want to hear from you with news tips, story ideas, your photos and accounts of events, corrections, problems, suggestions, etc. Call or write the editors
Eric Crump at [email protected] or 630-728-2661
Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]
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Flossmoor, IL 60422