“Cheer up, Ed. This is not goodbye. It’s just I won’t ever see you again.”
– Lt. Frank Drebin,
“The Naked Gun 33 1/3”
The first time I covered a government meeting, I was a 19-year-old college intern. It was January of 1996 and I had been hired by the former owners of the Record and Ledger, the Farrens, to cover meetings and write stories on a (very) part-time basis.
I remember it was a Yorkville plan commission meeting, and I also remember that I had absolutely no idea what anyone was talking about. I was 19. They were talking about zoning, and variances and PUDs. I was attending community college and living with my parents.
This was before the days of Google, and the internet wasn’t nearly as user friendly then as it is today. So I did what any good reporter should do, I asked questions. I called up the city administrator at the time, Jim Nanninga, and asked him questions. I asked my editor, Kathy Farren, questions, and eventually I wrote my first story. I think it made at least some sense by the time I got done with it.
And that’s how my journalism journey began, trying to find out information, sometimes from people who have no problem giving you such information and sometimes from people who would rather cut off their foot than give you that information, followed by writing up a story that you hope people will read and find interesting.
Now, 23 years later, my journalism journey is coming to an end. I have accepted a job with Northern Illinois University as a donor relations writer for the NIU Foundation, and I’ll be stepping down from my position as news editor here at the Record and Ledger this week.
Being a journalist and writing award-winning stories for my hometown community has been a great honor and privilege. It’s something I always wanted to do, I got to do it, and they actually paid me for it!
I have been immensely fortunate getting to interact with public officials who have, for the most part, been supportive of the concept of open meetings and transparency, over these two-plus decades of journalism. And those that weren’t so forthcoming, well, they were fun to cover.
I also got to work with a lot of great people, including my editor, John Etheredge, who’s been reading and re-reading my material and serving as a sounding board to me all these years; my general manager (and fellow 1995 YHS grad) Ryan Wells; my publisher Laura Shaw; and my office-mates, editorial assistant Candy Johnson, sports editor Joshua Welge, reporter / photog extraordinaire Shea Lazansky, advertising department execs Kristin Hawkins and Julie Harn, and front desk Jill-of-all-trades LeeAnn Franklin. Also, Julie Beaulieu and Mike Solley up at the design desk always made me look good! And of course I’m grateful to everyone else at the Shaw Media family that has supported me in this venture.
Again, this is something I always wanted to do and I got to do it, and I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity. And the papers are still in excellent hands, with Etheredge and Lazansky providing you with local coverage you can depend on day in and day out.
It’s been a real thrill. Now, on to the next chapter.