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updated: 10/13/2011 12:13 PM

Talk with the Editor: A dark day on Page 1

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This is one of those dark days on the front page.

We generally produce a five-story front on the print editions. Five stories, plus a couple of teasers built into the nameplate. Occasionally there are more squeezed on, sometimes fewer, but usually there are five.

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We are mindful that the page is not only a window into the newspaper, but also a window into the suburbanite's world that day. As such, news out of the suburbs gets overriding priority, but not exclusivity. News from elsewhere that affects, interests or entertains suburbanites also may break the front. But with five stories chosen from an endless number of possibilities, it's a subjective process and the results admittedly are debatable. There are plenty of days when a dozen or more stories belong on the front.

We try to strike a balance in subject matter. Life is a mixture of light and dark, cerebral and emotional, inspiration and heartache. And we try to paint the front page with those broad strokes.

But some days are easier than others. On today's front page, our centerpiece is built around the exhumation of the eight bodies from John Wayne Gacy's killing spree; they're still unidentified and the graves were opened in the hopes that DNA testing may help determine who they were. Also on the front page is a photo story leading inside to coverage of the funeral of a 5-year-old tragically killed in a gang shooting in Elgin, and an obituary of Robert Galvin, the longtime CEO of Motorola, one of the suburbs' preeminent corporations.

So that's three out of the five story choices given over to news of death. In the case of Galvin, it's really news of his life, but a story pegged on death all the same. And in the case of the other two stories, it's sad, head-shaking, inexplicable stuff.

The world isn't that pervasively grim, and so as a rule, we try not to devote the front page to so much death and destruction. Today, we agonized a bit over the choices but ultimately decided we really had no choice. That all three of those stories demanded to be on Page 1 for one reason or another.

I'm curious to hear what you think. How important is a balance of subject matter to you? What do you think about today's front page?

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