Good News columnist shares how she gets her local stories

Good News columnist shares how she gets her local stories

  • Daily Herald columnist Eileen O. Daday spoke at a recent meeting of the Arlington Heights PEO chapter.

    Daily Herald columnist Eileen O. Daday spoke at a recent meeting of the Arlington Heights PEO chapter. Courtesy of Marcella Paddock

 
Posted12/12/2019 6:00 AM

Most days, I interview people and write their stories in the confines of my office and in front of my computer. But on a recent Thursday afternoon, I was coaxed out from behind the desk to meet with a group of avid Daily Herald readers. How could I refuse?

That's right, for the second time this year I was the featured speaker at a meeting of a PEO Chapter in Arlington Heights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Daily Herald columnist Eileen Daday has been writing stories about local people for the Neighbor section for more than 30 years.
Daily Herald columnist Eileen Daday has been writing stories about local people for the Neighbor section for more than 30 years. - Daily Herald File Photo

There are several chapters of this international women's organization throughout the Northwest suburbs. They focus on providing educational opportunities for female students worldwide.

At this meeting in Arlington Heights, there were 20 women who said they liked the Daily Herald for its local news coverage, but they also highlighted its multiple feature sections. Some, however, said they read the Neighbor section first.

"That's my favorite," said Sue Henderson of Arlington Heights. "I like the local features. I like the food section and the health section -- and then I read the news."

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Another member, Mary Edith Arnold of Arlington Heights, singled out the life stories, or news obituaries written about those who passed away but in one way or another had helped shape the Northwest suburbs.

"Having lived here all these years, and raised my children here, those are very meaningful to me," Arnold said.

All of which explained why they invited me to pull back the curtain, so to speak, and share with them just what goes into writing a feature column every week for the Neighbor section.

I started by sharing my background of having grown up in Arlington Heights, and ultimately attending the University of Notre Dame, where I wrote for the student newspaper. As a member of the second coed class, I covered the fledgling women's sports program.

Daily Herald columnist Eileen O. Daday spoke at a recent meeting of the Arlington Heights PEO chapter.
Daily Herald columnist Eileen O. Daday spoke at a recent meeting of the Arlington Heights PEO chapter. - Courtesy of Marcella Paddock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Consequently, I started as a prep sports freelancer with the Herald way back in the mid-1980s. When a column opened up in Arlington Heights, they asked me to fill it and the rest is history. Over the years, the scope broadened, but I try to share uplifting stories, or "good news."

The women in the audience had some great questions:

Q. Where do you get your ideas?

A. A lot of times, people contact me directly. Other times, I hear from school districts and nonprofit organizations. Most of the time, editors and other reporters share ideas with me. I have to confess, they give me the good ones.

Q. How long does it take to write them?

A. Not as long as you would think. Maybe an hour or so. Writing is the easy part, the fun part. It usually takes much longer to reach people than it does to write the story.

Q. Do you have to go into the newsroom?

A. No. I work remotely and stay in touch with the editors and other reporters through email and by phone.

Q. How far ahead of time do you need to schedule your stories?

A. I generally ask people to send me information two weeks in advance. By the time I can reach people, do the reporting and schedule a photographer, it all takes time. Since I generally have to file stories nearly a week ahead of time, having a little cushion is good.

Q. What towns do your stories run in?

A. It depends on the subject. If the story crosses from Cook into Lake County, it usually will run in both zones. The editors make those calls, but they try to run them in the county where the subjects of the story live.

Q. Who writes your headlines and lays out the page?

A. Editors on the copy desk do that, and they do a great job. They like to run at least three to four photos with my column, and with clever headlines they give it great play. They make me look good!

When the presentation wrapped up, we all agreed that the draw of the Daily Herald is its local stories. And I've been privileged to do that for more than 30 years: share stories of local people, doing interesting things and valuable work that otherwise might go unnoticed.

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