The stories that stick with us: A decadeslong commitment to telling diverse human stories
Staying in touch with our communities is the lifeblood of the Daily Herald, and we showed a particularly thoughtful commitment to that goal years ago with a variety of in-depth series on the heritage of diverse populations in the suburbs that still resonates in our coverage today.
The reporting began with a series in the early 2000s we called "The New Suburban Mosaic: A monthly look at our ever-changing melting pot."
Stories featured profiles highlighting the influence of cultural heritage on the lives and communities of individuals from the suburbs. And the range of cultures we examined literally spanned the globe. We showed Italian Americans working to keep various feast and festivals relevant, Polish immigrant students working to gain citizenship, a look inside a school for Japanese Americans in Arlington Heights and similar snapshots of suburban residents with ties to Somalia, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and much more.
Then, within this framework, we took an intimate dive into the cultural legacies of communities with particularly large constituencies in the suburbs. We began in 2003 with a five-part series called "Passage to India," for which we sent reporter Rukmini Callimachi and photographer Scott Mahaskey to India to gather stories specifically relating to families now living in the suburbs.
One of my favorite recollections from that series was a Mahaskey photo of a young Sikh from Palatine striking a classic rock pose as he played guitar in his bedroom, and one of my favorite memories was the opportunity to participate in a service along with my sons at the Sikh gurdwara in Palatine after the series published.
Because of the success of that series, we embarked on additional foreign trips over the next several years, sending reporters and photographers to communities in the Philippines, China, Poland and Mexico to find stories with unique relevance to individuals and families in our suburbs.
All these projects produced revealing insights about people and cultures that make up the ever-diversifying region in which we live. And they produced memorable surprises. In her reporting for "Passage from India," Callimachi, now a highly regarded foreign affairs reporter for The New York Times, interviewed an 83-year-old conspiracist in the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi.
In his stories about life in the Philippines in 2005, then-staff writer Michael Comerford -- now the author of a recent memoir called "American Oz," describing a year he spent as an itinerant carnival worker -- told of running into Imelda Marcos and sharing a dance at a Manila nightclub.
I was lead editor on some but not all these projects. Indeed, just about all our editors and most of our writers and photographers have their fingerprints on aspects of our "Suburban Mosaic" coverage over the years.
The origins of all these projects stemmed from our recognition that the suburbs have long been transitioning away from their stereotype as almost exclusively white, and they fostered understanding we hoped would help residents in our communities engage with each other more constructively and knowledgeably.
We haven't taken any trips lately, but our commitment to this objective continues with a weekly "Suburban Mosaic" series by Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy that explores a wide range of topics reflecting the rich variety of cultures and backgrounds represented in our suburbs.
Our journalism at the Daily Herald takes many forms, all of them important. For me, it is a special source of pride that we have maintained a serious commitment to the reporting of these diverse human stories for more than two decades.
• Deputy Managing Editor Jim Slusher began his Daily Herald career in 1989.