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updated: 3/9/2014 8:32 AM

Daily Miracle: Outlet malls and aging theaters

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The Page 1 centerpiece. It's not viewed by everyone as the biggest, most important story of the day (the "skyline" across the top of paper sometimes takes that honor), but I can confidently tell you it's the daily story that commands the majority of our time, labor and hand-wringing. On most days, it's the story/photo package that takes up the most space. To make it count, we do our best -- and sometimes the news of the nation and world dictate otherwise -- to make sure it's a staff-produced story about the suburbs.

To pull off that Daily Miracle, we ask all reporters to regularly contribute. That can be a challenge for reporters on our city staff or specialized beats, who cover news that is geographically unique. You won't, for instance, read about the $2.8 million expansion of Steeple Run School in Naperville in our Lake County printed editions. Nor will you see in your DuPage editions the story about the Mundelein Mayor's Math Cup Challenge. But both warranted a spot in that skyline space on Friday in their respective zones. (You can, of course, read both stories at or see them in our electronic edition. So here's another shameless plug for you to make sure you have that full digital subscription.)

I sent a gushy note late last week to the DuPage and Fox Valley staffs, commending them for contributing six consecutive centerpieces in a six-day span. (Two of them ended up running as skylines, though, because we wanted to play up the Academy Awards and the Blackhawks' Soldier Field game.) What the heck, let me share my gushing with you:

• Friday, Feb. 28: Justin Kmitch's profile of the volunteers who offer prayer and guidance outside several courthouses.

• Saturday, March 1: Lenore Adkins' piece on the two teams -- "Glutton Force 5" and "The Fat Shallot" -- competing on Food Network's "Food Court Wars" for rent-free space at Spring Hill Mall

• Sunday, March 2: Jim Fuller's meticulous story on how lead paint, banned 35 years ago, is still a health concern, principally for children in towns with older homes.

• Monday: Marie Wilson's profile of the Naperville man who ran sub-four-hour times in 51 marathons in 50 states, plus District of Columbia.

• Tuesday: Madhu Krishnamurthy's status report on our three outlet malls.

• Wednesday: Jessica Cilella's historical account of why people go to such lengths to save aging downtown theaters.

Here's what I told the staff about their efforts:

"What is really neat is that all of these stories came off individual beats. In some cases, it was a matter of finding something compelling enough to play everywhere.

"But I want to single out the efforts by Madhu and Jessica, who took beat stories an important step further. Madhu could have stuck with a story just about the struggling Huntley mall, which was loaded with news pegs and fell on her beat. But she rounded up the other two outlet malls in our footprint and let readers know one is doing very well, plans to expand (Aurora), and the other has reinvented itself (Gurnee).

"Jessica, new to her Wheaton beat, soon learned of efforts to save the run-down Wheaton Grand Theater. But by chronicling the various efforts -- some are in limbo, some have been rousing successes and one ended up being demolished -- and finding an expert on the history of downtown, Main Street theaters, she gave the story a terrific community feel.

"What an amazing run. I'm very proud of you guys. Keep up the great work."

Hope you appreciate their efforts, too.

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