The stories that stick with us: When the front pages show the depth of life in the simplest packages

  • Alix Atwell's submitted picture and heartfelt, honest words made for a simple front-page layout with a lot of depth.

    Alix Atwell's submitted picture and heartfelt, honest words made for a simple front-page layout with a lot of depth.

  • This image of a Gurnee family in their living room showed hope, pride and weariness all at once. Editor Neil Holdway could not resist playing it large on this 2015 front page.

    This image of a Gurnee family in their living room showed hope, pride and weariness all at once. Editor Neil Holdway could not resist playing it large on this 2015 front page.

  • This collection of images and front pages showed the complexity, subtle and not so subtle, of a heroin scourge that was taking over the suburbs.

    This collection of images and front pages showed the complexity, subtle and not so subtle, of a heroin scourge that was taking over the suburbs.

  • Neil Holdway

    Neil Holdway

 
By Neil Holdway
nholdway@dailyherald.com
Updated 10/4/2021 8:22 AM

A big part of my job is making the Daily Herald's front pages, and I've made countless dramatic fronts: Presidential elections, bombings, fires, heroics, impeachments, celebrations, Stanley Cups, World Series -- a lot of history and memories.

Other front pages I remember contain more subtle stories. They could be big, weighty topics, but our staff, or even a guest writer, presented them with such nuance and depth that the more you look, the more you find.

 

In 2015 our Madhu Krishnamurthy wrote a story about suburban Muslims who were both stereotyped as terrorists and had to worry about extremist groups actually trying to recruit their children to become terrorists. As part of the package, photographer Steve Lundy made an image of a mother and her two sons in their Gurnee living room.

We debated making it the big picture on the page. But I thought it was amazing. In one image, you can see a family hopeful, proud and weary all at once as it navigates bigotry.

The same year we had an update on the progress of the fight against heroin in the suburbs. We had done many stories on the subject, but I remember especially the "Get Better. Eventually." front page.

Our Marie Wilson was interviewing a heroin addict who was getting clean but who admitted it wasn't exactly instant. During the interview, he showed Marie the tattoo on his arm -- where he had injected so many times -- that had the date of his first, heart-stopping overdose.

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She snapped a picture with her smartphone. The impromptu picture said so much -- such openness and vulnerability -- that I designed it as the lead image.

And just last year, we heard from a Barrington woman whose entire family became infected with COVID-19. She wrote what would become a three-part COVID diary. And she gave us a picture of herself in bed, tubes out of her nose. Her image and words showed a hopeful fight amid desperation. We couldn't stop looking.

These are captured subtleties in people's lives that are as memorable as the big moments in history.

• Assistant Managing Editor Neil Holdway has worked for the Daily Herald since 1992.

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