Our talented writers and taking the road toward irrelevancy

Viewpoint: 

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

If you are a regular H-F Chronicle reader – that is a good possibility if you are eight words into this column – you may have already wondered, “Who are all those people?”

As in, “all those people” who are writing stories in the H-F Chronicle.

It’s a good question. By my count, this is either our 39th or 40th print edition and it presents clear evidence that the number of people contributing to the Chronicle has been steadily growing. When we published the first print edition in December 2015, just about all the stories were written by the Chronicle’s three owners – Marilyn Thomas, Eric Crump and myself.

Now we have a solid roster of talented writers adding stories to the paper online and in print.

I was very proud of last month’s 36-page Chronicle. As always, we covered the important issues facing our local schools and government. Our centerpiece section, marking Black History Month, had profiles on five residents of our towns who are making a positive impact in our communities, and beyond.

Beyond that, nearly half of the bylined stories were done by writers other than Marilyn, Eric or me. That is very good news for the Chronicle as it moves forward.

For instance ...

On Page 3 — prime editorial real estate in the monthly Chronicle — David P. Funk wrote a story about the South Suburban Humane Society’s plans to open an adoption center in Homewood. That was at the top of the page. Stephanie Markham wrote a story on a Flossmoor election challenge that appeared at the bottom of the page.

Page 4 included a story by Danielle Maya Banks about the Flossmoor Village Board overturning the longtime ban on pickup truck parking and what that is likely to mean for local law enforcement.

Page 6 had Markham’s story about Jamie Paicely, the new director of the Flossmoor Public Library. Page 8 had Banks’ story about the 40th anniversary of the Korean Methodist Church in Flossmoor. Funk’s story about a Homewood parking variance appeared on Page 9.

And so on.

On Page 14, we ran Sharon Filkins’ feature about Jim Kvedaras, a lifelong Homewood resident who recently retired as CN Railroad’s executive director of government and public affairs.

Carole Sharwarko wrote about Homewood resident Barbara Dawkins for the centerpiece. Banks wrote about H-F grad and student activist Destiny Watson.

On Page 26, Carrie Steinweg wrote about the Well at the Distillery, which is producing craft alcoholic spirits in an 1857 building in neighboring Thornton.

Donald Crocker wrote about the H-F High School girls wrestling team in a story that appeared on Page 34.

At this point, let me explain that finding writers for the Chronicle other than Marilyn, Eric and me has been one of my major goals in the last couple of years. Or, let me put it this way – I’d like to make myself irrelevant.

The three of us — Marilyn, Eric and myself — take the Chronicle very seriously and want to continue producing what we consider to be serious, accurate journalism that is beneficial to the community. We would also like to think that the Chronicle has a future.

I am constantly telling people that I am not the future of anything. That is partly a smart aleck remark but is also pretty much the truth. I do know that the Chronicle has a better chance of thriving when younger writers come aboard. 

We started looking for writers shortly after the first print edition came out. Sharon Filkins, a south suburban newspaper veteran, was the logical first choice. Carrie Steinweg, a local free-lancer, loves writing about food but we have had great success with her feature stories. Dave Funk is experienced at writing both government and sports stories – he’s been covering Homewood for the last couple of years.

Carole Sharwarko is a former colleague from the Star who contacted me in 2017. She writes like a dream and has also taken on other responsibilities at the Chronicle. Carole produced what I consider to be the most astonishing story that the Chronicle ran last year. After a Homewood man was beaten and carjacked on his driveway, Carole contacted him and he agreed to a story. She handled the situation like a consummate professional. The story was scary, thoughtful and very kind to the victim — all at the same time.

Stephanie Markham applied for a position last summer and she is covering Flossmoor and School District 161. Since her first story, I have known that she understands government, and can write about how it works. I am always talking about tax levy stories and how important they are to local newspapers – usually to sarcastic eye rolls from whomever I’m addressing. When I saw Stephanie’s first tax levy story, and that she’d totally nailed it, it was clear we’d found someone who knew what she was doing.

Danielle Maya Banks is an H-F graduate who started college as a journalism major. She got her degree in another field but clearly knows how to write for a newspaper. Last November, I was supposed to do the centerpiece on the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and its holiday toy drive but was sick for much of that month. I asked Danielle to pick up the story. She finished it in less than a week and, under the circumstances, did an exceptional job. 

Donald Crocker is an H-F student who offered to do sports stories for us. He has been sending us stories on the boys basketball team this fall and winter. They are on time, well written –and he takes good pictures too.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mary Compton, who has been taking photos for the Chronicle for the last two years. Mary is an old friend — we worked together at the Star for more than a dozen years — and is an absolute pro. She is responsible for many of our stories looking good. 

A couple more things.

Marilyn, Eric and myself are still volunteers. That means we are not paid for our efforts at the Chronicle. Our freelance writers, and Mary, are paid by the assignment. It’s good that we have enough advertising support to make that possible. At this stage of our development, it is important that we can afford the kind of quality work that the Chronicle wants to deliver.

Finally, I like working with young reporters. A lot. They are truly the future and I am very happy to pass along any expertise that I have accumulated over the years.

Maybe I’ll be relevant for a little while longer.  

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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