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posted: 11/10/2013 5:00 AM

Stunningly, you can't have fun with every story

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In a stunning development, not every brilliant idea I come up with for this column pans out.

A couple weeks ago, I was struck by how much fun the reporters and editors seemed to have with a story advancing a charity boxing match in Aurora, mostly involving police officers. Often when we're dealing with cops, it's not under the best of circumstances and maybe everyone's a bit on edge when we try to corral details about a serious crime. So it was great to see everyone we talked to let down their hair when responding to our questions. This was best typified by the answers given in a "tale of the tape" presentation in our Oct. 21 Neighbor editions:

Aurora officer Kristin Zeman

Weight: 127 lbs., all "bone-crushing muscle,"

Reach: "To the end of my hand."

Boxing experience: "One time on a Nintendo DS, I was BEAST."

Elgin officer Ana Lalley:

Age: "Young enough to put the hurt on my opponent."

Height: "Same as Laila Ali."

Weight: "Seriously? No comment."

I shared my joy for this story with the entire staff, reminded everyone that we can and should have some fun with some of the stories we do. I also asked them to send me examples of "fun" stories they had done of late, thinking it would be great grist for a column.

I wasn't exactly overrun with contributions. I speculated that everyone's pretty busy these days, people sometimes are reluctant to toot their own horns. Between that and a back injury that put me on the shelf, I gave up the idea.

I was reminded of it the other day when preparing nominations for our monthly award of excellence. As I combed over the early list of 30 or so nominations, I was struck by two things: 1. We should toot our own horns; people here do some outstanding work, day in, day out. 2. A lot of our best work is not exactly fun; it's pretty serious. Not necessarily grim, but not light, either. If I had to give it a label, I'd say "important." Maybe not Obamacare crisis/government shutdown/asteroids crashing into Earth important, but important to the suburbs.

A few quick examples: Story about censure of an Island Lake village board member; the reporters and graphic editor who prepared several stories on how our schools fared on the state report cards; a piece on a Streamwood attorney's aggressive campaign to get better compliance by local businesses with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the attorney's fiery clash with the chamber of commerce; how the looming government shutdown could affect Fermilab and an NIU professor's Antarctic expedition; and a detailed look at so-called "sin taxes," showing their continued increase hasn't necessarily had its desired effect.

Hard, and inappropriate, of course, to crack wise with those pieces.

But I promised the staff I would reward my favorite "fun" story with a terrific prize -- something worth at least five bucks, I publicly proclaimed. So let me publicly announce the winner:

It's Naperville reporter Marie Wilson, for her feature on Alyssa Gialamas, a Naperville Paralympic swimmer who recently won a bronze medal at the World Championships. Marie learned the award ceremony included a stuffed beaver. She asked Alyssa about it, liked her answer and made it a significant part of the Sept. 18 story, which you can find at

It's an important local story. But fun.

Marie, your prize is in the mail!

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