Looking hard for 'Straight from the Source' essays

  • Keith Peterson, a former employee and retired foreign service officer, was one of our guest essayists.

    Keith Peterson, a former employee and retired foreign service officer, was one of our guest essayists.

  • The essay by Aidan Busch, a Palatine High School senior, won a statewide VFW contest, now competes for national recognition.

    The essay by Aidan Busch, a Palatine High School senior, won a statewide VFW contest, now competes for national recognition.

Updated 3/4/2017 5:24 PM

I said it in a joking manner, just in case my genius idea laid an egg.

"Hey, we could put a 'Straight from the Source' label on the co-working story," I proclaimed, referencing Marie Wilson's story in today's editions in which she gives a first-person account of trying out two of the co-working offices she was detailing. Her take: Pretty nice. Her co-working co-workers seemed to favor their digs, too. One co-worker gave the work-from-home option a succinct assessment: It's lonely.


OK, maybe Marie's first-person story isn't exactly what we're trying to accomplish with "Straight from the Source," which we rolled out a few weeks ago with a first-person essay by Tim Ballenger. He had shared through Facebook what could have been a harrowing experience: A black man driving about 15 miles over the limit and legally carrying a gun, and stopped in the wee hours by white Hoffman Estates police officers. Tim had posted his experience -- which ended with the cops letting Tim off with a speeding warning and an admonition to get his wife some ice cream -- to let his friends, most of whom are black, know of his positive encounter. It went viral, and Tim shared the reaction with Daily Herald readers in his own words and in a style uniquely his own.

A few days later, we received a pitch from Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove to talk to a nurse with a passion for fighting domestic violence about the blurred lines in the movie "Fifty Shades Darker." But rather than conduct a traditional interview, we asked her to write a short essay on the topic. That, too, ran on Page 1. A few more examples quickly followed:

• The state VFW announced that Palatine High School senior Aidan Busch had won its patriotic essay contest and a chance to compete in a national contest for a $10,000 college scholarship. This one was a slam dunk: We ran in full Aidan's poignant words on how he views the ground he walks on as sacred, preserved by those who spilled blood for our nation. We ran the essay on the front page.

• We asked Jay Richardson of Elgin, a veteran judge of dog shows, including the venerable Westminster Kennel Club contest, to answer our questions in his own words on his passion. He answered our questions while on a 13-hour flight to Beijing to judge yet another dog show. Yep, Jay's report ran on Page 1.

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• Last week, retired foreign service officer Keith Peterson, who twice lived in Sweden, penned an Opinion page essay after President Donald Trump suggested Sweden's struggle with an influx of refugees was leading to an upsurge in crime. He referenced a terrorist attack in Sweden that, as Keith noted, never occurred.

We're not stopping there, of course.

Be sure to see Monday's front page, where we've planned a package focused on the words of Rany Jazayerli, a dermatologist with offices in St. Charles and Sycamore and the son of Syrian immigrants. He was off skiing when the president's immigration ban on mostly-Muslim nations was imposed. Feeling helpless during a crisis affecting many people he knew, he wrote an impassioned letter to his patients, letting them know of his heritage (he does not look like a typical Muslim), and how it was heartbreaking to see immigrants "being denied the same opportunity my parents were given, to work hard and make this country an even better place to live." His letter will appear in full, as will his essay describing why he decided to write that letter and the reaction its received.

The source of ideas for "Straight from the Source" are varied. A top DH executive first noticed Tim Ballenger's Facebook post. Jay Richardson came to mind when I was watching a TV news blurb from the Westminster. Keith Peterson is a former employee we solicited.

Irons are in the fire to get more voices in the paper. In fact, there's a list numbering 32 that is as varied as you can imagine. Our goal is to find people from as broad a political and sociological spectrum as possible who have valuable insight on the issues of the day.

Got anyone in mind? Drop me a line.


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