Layoffs put sad end to 'friendly competition'

It may seem like a good thing for the Daily Herald when the bell tolls for a competing paper.

Two weeks ago, Pioneer Press published its last edition of the Rolling Meadows Review. It was one of a dozen Northwest suburban weeklies to succumb to economic pressures.

I'm not exactly rejoicing, however. No one in our industry likes what's happening to newspapers ­- even if it's the competition.

Neither does Sherrie Kirmse, a Rolling Meadows resident who wrote a community column for the Review and now is out of a job. "It's a sad day when a newspaper dies," she said.

For nearly two decades, Kirmse did what I'm now doing for the Herald - writing a column about events and interesting people who live in Rolling Meadows. Some may see it as "fluffy" news, but it serves the important purpose of recognizing and celebrating all that's unique and good about our city.

Kirmse knows there now will be a little less recognition. "I feel bad for all the people who counted on me to give them their news," she said.

Kirmse got her writing gig 18 years ago when Pioneer Press advertised for a Rolling Meadows columnist. With an English major but no journalism experience, she walked in to apply. She was hired.

Her column ran biweekly until just over a year ago, when she began writing each week. Do the math - that's almost 500 columns.

Five-hundred columns. How does one come up with that many things to say about one small suburb?

She'd write about park district events, teens who excel, people in the garden club, neighbors serving others - but her favorite topic was wacky vacation stories.

"People would stop me and ask if I wanted to hear their story," she said, adding that the hot spot for gathering column ideas was in the aisles at Jewel.

As she came to know more and more people in town, they began to recognize her, too, from her picture that ran with the column. She never was comfortable with the minor-celebrity status.

"I don't know how people can live with notoriety," she said. "If you're just an ordinary person, it's hard to deal with."

She and my own predecessor, former Herald columnist Reggie Gorski, worked practically side by side for many years. Their kids went to grade school together.

"It was a competition, but it was a friendly competition," she recalled. "In a little town like this we're talking about the same things.

"My problem with being a weekly rather than a daily is I was always playing catch-up with the Herald," she said.

One highlight of her writing career was when she and Gorski were asked to be co-grand marshals of the Fourth of July parade. "We had the best time," she said. "People kept saying, 'Oh, look, it's the paper ladies.'"

Kirmse has lived in the same house on Central Road since 1965 and raised two kids. One of her grandchildren is a freshman at Rolling Meadows High School.

The layoffs came as a surprise to Kirmse and much of the Pioneer Press staff. In fact, she already had her next column half written when she was told to write a goodbye column. She got a call at home from her supervisor. "There was no warning. That was it, we're done."

Only three editions of the Northwest group survived. Kirmse's counterpart in Lake Zurich had been writing her column for 29 years.

Now Kirmse is contemplating what to do, being both column-free and retired from her day job at Harper College. "Now I have way too much time," she said.

• You can contact Colleen Thomas at (847) 427-4591 or

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