Davis: News 'fun' ranges from serious to silly
A funny thing happened on the way to writing this column.
I confused "fun" with "funny."
I thought it would be fun to pass along a couple of funny Facebook posts to show what a hoot we journalists can be on social media.
But attempting to provide more insight to our news operation, I also called on my favorite source, the reporting staff. We editor types badger you guys to have fun in your reporting, I told them. Anyone have a recent example of a story you pursued that was fun?
"Fun" can take many forms, from the most serious to most lighthearted of efforts.
For the former, consider columnist Kerry Lester. For months, she followed the story of a Syrian family separated because of the travel ban. Then at the end of a long, hard week, Kerry learned that, partly because of her reporting, the family was reunited in Des Plaines. She visited the happy family in their apartment, an occasion that reminded her of her commitment to journalism. "A lot of joy in that room, and I was so happy to share that story," she said.
On the other side of the coin, there's staff writer Marie Wilson, who has done numerous stories on the scourges of heroin, the tribulations caused by mental illness. But every once in while, it's nice to write a story about ... poop. Seriously, that was the topic when Marie followed a group of Naperville Central High School seniors learning about the job of a dietitian at Northwest Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. It often begins with the question, the dietitian said, "Tell me about your poop."
Said Marie: "I had fun being silly with this, and the best part was it reflected exactly what the event was about and why it was interesting education for the students."
Others passed along fun stories that came from our schools:
• Staff writer Bob Susnjara sat in on a meeting among Round Lake school leaders, preschool students and state Rep. Sam Yingling. The occasion was pretty serious: Round Lake schools, according to a state board of education formula, is getting only 61 percent of the state funding it needs to be successful. Bob and the other adults sat on the tiny chairs, and his big take-away was, "I really enjoyed seeing the preschoolers and their teachers interacting in a warm way with each other."
• DuPage Editor Bob Smith regularly gets out of the office and into the community. He usually has a good time, and it always shows in his writing. Bob recently visited a St. Baldrick's Day event at York High School in Elmhurst and focused on an assistant principal shaving his head -- and 22 months of hair growth -- to raise money to fight childhood cancer. "Here's a little secret we'll share," Bob wrote, "but you've got to promise not to tell anyone: For most of his life, Ryan Doherty kept his hair pretty short." Says Bob of the story, "As a bald guy, I especially enjoyed talking to him about 'phantom hair.'"
Others chimed in on other topics:
• Daily Herald Blackhawks columnist John Dietz enjoyed recounting the team has been so "clutch" this season, scoring game-tying or game-winning goals with less than 5.5 minutes remaining in the game. "I went through every one of their victories and found they had accomplished that feat an amazing 20 times. (and twice more in OT losses)," he said. "So I started the story with how great it was for the 35-and-older crowd to grow up in the Age of Jordan, then dovetailed into how fans should be fortunate to cheer for a hockey team that can score seemingly at will when they trail."
• Business writer Anna Kukec was assigned to cover an egg hunt for dogs when working a recent weekend shift. Anna hadn't known such an event existed, much less cover one. "It also was the first time I was in a gym filled with about 30 dogs of all sizes and breeds, all yelping, barking, licking, sniffing and tugging at their leashes," she said. "When the finale came, and the dogs raced to find Easter eggs filled with Milk Bones, watch out. One large dog was so excited, he raced toward me just as I moved to get out of the way and he banged his head into my knee, shook it off with a dazed happy look and raced for the doggy treat."
• Staff writer Doug Graham profiled an Elmhurst magic and curiosities store. "One of my favorite things about this job is getting to meet interesting people I never would have otherwise,' he said. "Owner Bob James certainly falls into that category. He has a unique and fascinating thing going at his store and it was fun getting to know him, his business and telling his story.
• Finally, staffer Jamie Sotonoff proclaims, "Hands down, I have the most fun job at the Herald. I mean, I talked with Ed Asner about his prostate last week, for God's sake." The beauty of her job as an all-purpose general assignment reporter and showbiz columnist, she says, "I get to write about (and learn about) a little bit of everything. In the past few weeks, I've covered a murder case, done a bar review (yes, I'm paid to go to a bar with my friends), written stories about the Cubs, the weather, suburban elections, and talked about sandwiches with Food Network's Jeff Mauro. And that's not even everything."
Boy, that isn't bad.
Oh, yes; those Facebook posts. Online readers, follow this link to tax watchdog Jake Griffin's post (comments are a huge part of the mirth). If you're friends with copy editor Sean Stangland -- and you must have a passing knowledge of the songs of Phil Collins -- check out Sean's post on the Harper College candidate of the same name.