Huntley Daisy troop takes us back to the basics of truth and fairness

OK, I said to the young visitors, does anyone know what Facebook is?

"It's where you keep your pictures," called out one enthusiastic member of Daisy Troop 250, all kindergartner girls from Leggee Elementary School in Huntley.

I resisted the impulse to say, "No, that's Instagram," but nodded enthusiastically myself.

We were off and running in a half-hour session I feared could be a disaster.

Nicole Ouimette, one of the Daisy moms, said the troop wanted to visit our Elgin office to make "a real connection" about being fair and honest, an early tenet of the Daisy program and one for which the girls can earn petals, the equivalent of a merit badge. "We chose to visit you guys to see how newspapers have to be fair and honest," she said.

That was flattering, but the thought of being interesting, much less educational, to such a young group was terrifying. So I commandeered staff writer Elena Ferrarin, who had written the story I planned to use as a life lesson, to provide backup.

I'm not a read-from-a-script kind of guy, but I soon began to wonder if my spontaneity was the best plan for this particular event, as I realized Elena's story - about a South Elgin youth football team fighting accusations of stacking its roster - and all its nuance, confused even me. I think I made the point (though one Daisy said, "What's a point?") that Elena had tried her best to talk to all sides in the football controversy, but because she hadn't - the story had come to us via a Facebook post - she was planning a follow-up story. To be fair, I told them. And earlier, I steered the Daisies to our editorial page and the company motto from founder Hosea C. Paddock: "Fear God, tell the truth and make money."

So, with the truth and fairness bases covered, and oodles of time left in our session, I shifted gears, pointing to the biggest photo on Tuesday's front page, of a deaf student from Hampshire High School. Oops, forgot to mention, earlier in our discussion we had established that the "stories" in the newspaper are real, not made up. (Newspaper cynics and critics, insert joke here.) It really didn't have much to do with honesty and fairness; I just thought it was a really nice story, with an even better after-the-fact outcome. The student, Maria NiƱo, had moved from Mexico to Aurora a few months ago after the death of her mother. Maria had a cochlear implant, but during the move had lost the external computing device that helps decode sounds. So students and faculty at Hampshire High, where Maria is in a special program, have been trying to raise the $9,000 to $12,000 for the needed device.

But here's the cool part, I told the Daisies: The day the story ran, its writer, Madhu Krishnamurthy, began to receive emails, many from total strangers, who wanted to help. Madhu put them in contact with the right people, and because this is a true story, she did a follow-up for Saturday's editions. Not sure the Daisies completely got what had happened, but they did know it was a nice story.

And one that I'm sure will be remembered when they look at the petals they earned on their visit.

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Reporter Lauren Rohr tells members of Daisy Troop 250 in Huntley about a story she's working on. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ouimette
Members of Daisy Troop 250 in Huntley grill reporter Lauren Rohr about honesty and fairness in the news-gathering business. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ouimette
DuPage Fox Valley News Director Jim Davis discusses the Daily Herald's front page with members of Daisy Troop 250 in Huntley - and their moms. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ouimette
The front page of Tuesday's Daily Herald seemed like a good place to start with a lesson on honesty and fairness for members of Daisy Troop 250 in Huntley. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ouimette
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