Coming Sunday: Stories that made a difference are the ones we remember most

We have a senior staff. Most of the reporters, photographers and editors have worked here for more than 20 years. Some more than 40.

With that kind of longevity and considering the thousands of stories each of those journalists reported, how do you single any of them out?

What story do you remember the most? That's the challenge Managing Editor Jim Baumann gave our staff for this keepsake glimpse inside the newspaper.

Choosing one from all those stories actually is no easy task, and the better the memory you have, the harder it undoubtedly gets.

But if you browse through the pages of this year's National Newspaper Week section, I think you'll find there tends to be a common theme: stories that made a difference.

Maybe not in every person's recollection, but in most of them.

In my own case, when people ask about stories I've covered or overseen over the years, the big ones certainly jump quickly to mind - among them, airline tragedies, the arrest and trial of John Gacy, interviews with Barack Obama and George H.W. Bush, the fire and the resurrection of Arlington Park, the Brown's Chicken murders, major sports championships, the stunning election of Jane Byrne over "the Chicago machine," the death of Richard J. Daley. (Well, yes, I guess I'm dating myself.)

Those stories, and many more, were adrenaline filled and unforgettable. Some were fun and exciting; others were haunting in their unrelenting sorrow.

But the stories that are most enduring? The aforementioned ones don't make my list.

I think instead of the Elgin boy who lost a sister in the tragic Fox River Grove school bus crash a quarter of a century ago. When we reported on his story, we mentioned he was a Bulls fan, and as a result of that mention, a season-ticket holder reached out with tickets for him to a game, seats near the floor where Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen played. It was a simple gesture, but such a monumental one. I tear up even now thinking about the moments of escape that anguished boy enjoyed through the generosity an item in the newspaper provoked.

I think of the Suburban Mosaic series we told of the past lives and cultures immigrants from a variety of countries brought with them to the suburbs. It was part of an in-depth and ongoing effort we undertook to be a bridge of understanding between neighbors in the suburbs.

I think of the eloquent Last Kiss stories suburban widows shared a few years ago of coping with the loss of their life partners, a reality that almost one out of every two of us eventually will have to face. Could those stories, and that first-person advice, help lighten a load?

The most meaningful stories to me have been the stories that elevate and inspire and help us find our way.

We have a senior staff here. You can read a lot into why so many people in our newsroom stay so long.

One of the implications is simply this: A devotion to the paper, a devotion to the community, a devotion to doing right by you.

Why would they stay if they lacked in any of those devotions?

For all of us, inside or outside the paper, regardless of our professions and regardless of our longevity in them, we're only here for a short time. We strive to use what time we have to make the world a little better place.

The best stories we remember are the stories that mattered most.

• Daily Herald Editor John Lampinen has spent all but one year of his career at the Daily Herald. He began as a reporter covering Barrington.

It's not always the biggest or most sensational story that becomes a reporter's best or most memorable one.
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