Stories that demand a personal touch

  • Jim Slusher

    Jim Slusher

Posted6/11/2020 12:18 PM

The potential for any person with a personal computer and an ax to grind to become a publisher today has done much to degrade the quality of news reporting and story telling. There are reasons we rely on trained, experienced writers for clear and reliable reports about events of the day. But there are certain stories that can best be told -- indeed, that likely can only be told -- by the person they involve. On matters of race, is yours one of those stories? If so, we'd like to hear it and possibly share it with our suburban audience.

So many of the problems that divide us have a simple shortcoming at their root: We don't know each other as people.


We think we know others because we've read stories that may pertain to them in newspapers or books. We think we know others because we've seen groups they belong to in news reports on television or we've seen people who look like them in pictures or videos on social media. So, as we compact complex issues into one-dimensional images, we also compartmentalize people connected with those issues and assume that passes for understanding. Issues become suddenly more identifiable and relatable when we discover that they are more than just stories, more than pictures on a screen or page, more than just hearsay. They play out in specific, unique ways in the lives of real people.

This has been a driving philosophy behind various projects we undertake. In Neighbor, we publish occasional stories under the heading "Why We Walk," in which people tell their personal stories about why they participate in certain fundraisers. We have published "Straight From The Source" stories periodically for several years in which people describe their direct experiences with matters of public interest. The idea takes on a deeper purpose, as well as a new urgency, in a new project we launched June 3. In the first of a series called "STONES OF HOPE: Understanding Who We Are," Kimberly White described with compelling intimacy her fears as a mother of color in Naperville for something as common and seemingly innocuous as her 15-year-old son going out for an afternoon jog.

Some of our inspiration for this series stems from a long-standing desire to better reflect the diverse lives and experiences of people living in the suburbs -- a drive that stretches back more than a decade to in-depth "Suburban Mosaic" reports we published on cultures ranging from India to Poland to the Philippines, Mexico and China. Some, of course, stems from the tension that has gripped our country since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the centerpiece in a too-long string of racial conflicts. We believe that understanding each other better helps us all live together more comfortably and more joyously.

We take the name for this latest series from a phrase about faith spoken by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous I Have A Dream speech of 1963. From faith, King said, we can "hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." As a newspaper, we have a inherent faith in the power of stories. We put a great deal of time and effort into telling stories we hope will help people better understand their government, their neighbors and their society.

But some stories we publish are better told by others. If you're a person of color and have one of these, tell us. Send a short inquiry to our Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy at We look forward to hearing from you.

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