When you publish a community newspaper in a small town you look for the balance between simply reporting what goes on in the community and playing a role in the life of the town. Over the 30 years that Wednesday Journal, Inc., our small Oak Park-based company has owned the Review, we have sponsored and co-sponsored parades and festivals, we’ve moderated political forums, we’ve served on Chamber committees and we’ve judged school contests.
It is all part of being caught up in the fabric of what makes a community work and as a local business, and particularly as the local publisher, I think it is an essential role for us to play.
And so when a couple of years back Jean Lotus, our editor, came to ask if she could join the board of the Forest Park Historical Society I enthusiastically said yes. The Review, which will celebrate a hundred years in 2017, is arguably the single greatest historical record of Forest Park life week-by-week that exists. Jean has a strong interest in Forest Park’s history and has been an active board member as the group got itself reenergized with new programs, fundraising, a continued search for a permanent home and the hiring of a part-time director.
What could go wrong?
Well this week the internal machinations of a newly divided historical society leadership made the front page and awkwardly our story carries the byline of Jean Lotus, Review editor and historical society board member. The story also contains a publisher’s note at the top identifying this conflict.
As readers know, the Review is a lean operation. There’s Jean and then there are our long-time columnists Jackie Schulz (who spent years on the library board) and John Rice (former historical society board member) and a couple of freelancers. It is a shallow bench.
In the days ahead we’ll have to sort out how we provide news coverage of the historical society and if it is appropriate for our editor to continue on the board of an unexpectedly newsmaking organization. However we sort this out, though, we will do our best to find that balance between covering Forest Park and playing an active, positive role in Forest Park.