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updated: 9/6/2011 10:46 AM

Amid murder, mayhem, still room for good news

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The phone message was one I've heard before, just new circumstances: Why can't you have some more positive news on the front page; three days about that kid who tried to kill the teacher. And, on top of that, the story about the guy who was killed with a weed whacker.

To be sure, Tuesday's paper, which prompted the reader's call, was pretty grisly. It played most prominently Part 2 of our three-part series on Angel Facio, now serving time for his vicious attack on an Elgin High School teacher. Also above the fold was the story about a Woodridge man accused of bludgeoning his father to death with a weed trimmer.

Honestly, it was a week of less-than pleasant news. There also were such stories as: sentencing of a Roselle priest for stealing $295,000 from his parishioners; another chapter in the almost decade-long saga of the Michael Cardamone sex offense case; a Lombard man sentenced to eight years for stealing almost a million dollars from his company.

Hey, bad things happen in the suburbs, and we have to report them. But amid the violence and mayhem were stories -- likewise given prominent Page 1 play -- that were aimed to inform, enlighten and, of course, pursue the suburban angle: Marni Pyke's look at the frantic lives of air traffic controllers working the FAA facility in Aurora; her overview of the toll increase proposed in Illinois, how it compares with tolls in other states and her coverage of the first of the public hearings on the matter, in Wheaton; and Marco Santana's preview coverage of the Chicago Air & Water Show in which he found a Glen Ellyn teen who got to ride a vintage T-34 Mentor piloted by a Schaumburg member of the Lima Lima Flight Team.

Another thing worth mentioning is the series of improvements we made to the print edition. The mission here was to highlight our suburban expertise, but in doing so, we also tell many inspiring suburban stories. That might be best illustrated by the weekly Suburban Standouts column by Elena Ferrarin and Kimberly Pohl. It focuses on young suburbanites who have accomplished great things. This past week we featured 18-year-old Irving Ruiz, an angry young man and a troublemaker who turned his life around and graduated from Glenbard West High School with a 4.1 grade-point average his final semester. He will become the first in his family to attend college -- on a full scholarship to Wheaton College, where he plans to study developmental psychology.

Snap comparisons are dangerous, but as I read the Ruiz story, I thought back to the Angel Facio story. Here were two kids having a rough go of things who turned in dramatically different directions.

The Facio story was not without controversy. Some considered it ill-timed and an unwanted reminder of a terrible tragedy, as evidenced by this letter in Saturday's Fence Post that said, "School starts for Elgin's teachers, including Mrs. Gilbert, next week and this kind of reminder of such a horrific event does little to boost morale or encourage teachers, students, or parents to feel good about our schools."

If Kerry Lester's three-part series on Facio were nothing more than a gratuitous interview with Facio, the objections would be especially pointed, but Lester went much, much deeper, pointing out that Facio has no concrete explanation for his actions, that he didn't seem particularly repentant to victim Carolyn Gilbert and, most significantly, didn't seem to be getting a lot of rehabilitative help. Also, he will be out of prison in 10 years. That prompted this observation in our editorial, "That punishment will have accomplished nothing if it is not accompanied by aggressive and effective mental health treatment. One day, after all, Angel Facio will be on the street again. And we'll all be on it with him."

We hope we'll be telling you again about Irving Ruiz, too, and in a most positive way.