For those readers who didn’t get enough history in the 140th anniversary section of the Daily Chronicle last weekend, I have a few more personal anecdotes.
First, I will take a quote from a 1971 “Barbed Wires” column I wrote about DeKalb police brutality. The lead read: “Five or six Chronicle staffers were brutally and unmercifully beaten by a half dozen DeKalb policemen.” The story was about a police against press basketball game held for the benefit of the YMCA. The final score was 108-40. I then berated our own staff, calling them a “poor, overweight, undernourished, outranked, bunch of newspaper reporters.” I also suggested the paper might institute a noontime jogging program so they would be ready for the men in blue the next year.
In another instance I had to poke fun at myself, explaining why there was no photo of a Waterman candidates night I covered, although I was there with a camera. When I got back to rewind the film – there was no film. It is not the last time I and other news people have assumed a camera was loaded. That could never happen today with digital cameras and smartphones.
When we moved back here 11 years ago, I happened to see Jeff Strack and he reminded me that he was the first Democrat running for local office in a long time to ever get a Chronicle endorsement. I recalled that he and Republican Stan Johnson were running for delegate seats at the State Constitutional Convention and a third person (Republican) did not impress me. So Stan and Jeff got our endorsement, despite the fact that there weren’t a sufficient number of Democrats in the county at that time to get Jeff elected. But he did serve several years as a member of the Sycamore school district board.
Then there was the Home Rule measure that would give more independence to cities and counties. Stan Johnson led that effort in our county, and I joined the committee, something a newspaper editor should not do when he also writes editorials on the subject. The electorate turned it down at that time and, after licking my wounds, I vowed never to join political committees or campaigns while serving as an editor.
I did break that vow in 1980 when the John B. Anderson for President campaign team asked me to serve as the media coordinator for their Northern California campaign. I had known Anderson when he was a Rockford congressman and used to stop by our Genoa newspaper office to chat (and campaign). Just think, if he had won I might have been White House Press Secretary. … There I go, fantasizing again.
Looking at back issues, I do want to share some credit for the nice awards the newspaper earned in the early 1970s. For example the “Outstanding Typography and Design Award,” which we won twice from the Inland Daily Press Association, involved the efforts of several departments. I found an old photo of the key people responsible for the award. It reminded me how it takes a team effort to be successful in any competition. It is easy to forget that a newspaper isn’t just the reporters and editors who get it packaged and delivered to your driveway or mailbox. So why not include your carrier or route driver on your Christmas gift list? (Editors and reporters no longer accept gifts.)
I will conclude with two slightly humorous memories.
On April Fool’s Day in 1970 we decided to publish a “fake” news story at the top of the front page that was so preposterous few could believe it. We reported the city and railroad had come to an agreement on how to eliminate the traffic delays caused by long trains. The solution was to relocate the train tracks down Lincoln Highway and close the state route to vehicular traffic, forcing people to take alternate routes. We even ran a “doctored” photo of a diesel engine running on the highway. We did put an editor’s note at the end explaining it was a spoof.
The other item I will classify as “Most Embarrassing” for me and the newsroom. We ran a headline that said “Man Found Dead in Sandwich,” which was true. But when the outside media and even talk show hosts picked up on the “Sandwich” some asked if his name was Reuben.