Local News, Opinion

The Chronicle turns 1

Editor’s note: This is the first in a week-long series of stories focusing on who and what the HF Chronicle is. After publishing for a year, we thought it was about time we introduced ourselves.

On Tuesday the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle will celebrate its first birthday.

She loved that tree, she loves books and she came up with an idea to turn a sad event into a celebration. She converted the big stump into a neighborhood book exchange, which people young and old regularly visit. Bring a book, take a book.

We like to think we’ve done something similar in the HF Chronicle’s first year, turning a negative into a positive.


Newspaper coverage of our community had been receding for some time. The beloved Homewood-Flossmoor Star ended its run in 2007. Its successor, the Southtown Star, gradually turned its attention to larger suburbs. Now owned by the Chicago Tribune, the Southtown notices Homewood and Flossmoor only occasionally.

Homewood-Flossmoor Patch, started in 2010, filled the gap for a while. Editor Ryan Fitzpatrick did a good job covering our community, but at the end of January 2014, the Patch laid off a portion of its staff, including Fitzpatrick. Consistent and thorough local news coverage effectively ended at that moment. Homewood-Flossmoor Patch is still publishing local news, but there are no Patch staff members stationed here, and that matters. 

A community newspaper works best when its people are part of the community, there to attend local government meetings; there to wander through community events, talking to people and capturing the moment in photos; there to listen to people’s concerns and questions and attempt to find answers; there to learn about the remarkable people of the community and tell their stories. 

As 2014 began, it appeared the community wasn’t getting what every community needs and deserves: consistent, independent local news coverage. 

Before moving to Homewood in 2013, I was the editor of a community newspaper in Marshall, Missouri. After moving here, I got a job at a newspaper but not as a reporter. I missed covering meetings and events and generally finding out what’s going on in town. It occurred to me I could get my reporting fix and hopefully contribute something to the community. So in June 2014, I launched a website called the Homewood Chronicle. 

I chose the name for two reasons. “Chronicle” is a traditional newspaper name and a traditional newspaper function — to provide an account of events as they unfold. The name is also part of our family tradition. My wife, Amy, came from a newspaper family. The Bless family owned the Weston (Mo.) Chronicle for 99 years. It was a weekly newspaper, and she still fondly remembers working there as a kid.  
Initially, I thought of it as a hobby. I have a full-time job, too, and I didn’t want to suggest I could deliver more than was really possible by trying to cover both villages. But soon it wasn’t just me. By early autumn, two experienced local journalists, Marilyn Thomas of Homewood and Tom Houlihan of Flossmoor, joined me. With Tom as our Flossmoor bureau chief, we were glad to be able to expand our coverage area. 

In November we officially became the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle. Considering how interconnected the villages are, it makes sense to cover both.

Since then, we’ve gotten help from the community. Anne Colton is creating a promotional video that we plan to use in a crowdfunding campaign this summer. We’ve been joined by more local writers, including Annie Lawrence and Mike Hrymak. Myra Eder, who was a colleague of Tom’s at the Star, has written several stories about local arts and entertainment. Marc Alan Fishman has designed our new logo. Jadey Ryndak is helping us plan to offer advertising space online and, we hope, in print. 

We have an informal advisory group that includes Steve Buchtel, Colton, Kate Duff, Jay Heiferman, Erika Holliday,  Jodi Libretti and Jim Wright. 

And we have benefited greatly from members of the community who have pitched in, providing news tips, story ideas, suggestions and proofreading (if you see a mistake, big or small, please let us know!). A community newspaper is a community effort, and we’re encouraged by the enthusiasm with which H-F people have jumped into the fray. 

In January, Tom, Marilyn and I began working with John Marshall Law School students as part of the Business Enterprise Law program. Third-year law students Danielle Young and Benjamin Grover, supervised by attorney George Pearce, helped us form an LLC and develop some basic business documents. At the end of March we were granted LLC status by the state of Illinois. 

The only real setback we’ve experienced so far was a combination software problem and backup failure. I had to rebuild the website from scratch at the end of October, which is why few stories from June, July, August and September appear in our archives. I’m still working to restore our earliest stories. 

Tom, Marilyn and I are volunteers, but this has become more than a hobby. We’re having great fun doing what we love, but providing reliable, interesting news is also an obligation to the community that we take very seriously. 

Where we go from here will depend a great deal on what the H-F community wants and is interested in supporting. 

One thing we plan to try is print publishing. It’s more difficult and expensive than online publishing, but we think print can still play an important role in giving all members of our community access to the news. We will begin a fundraising campaign this summer so we can offer our first print edition later this year. 

We hope this first year has demonstrated what we can do. We have plans to develop the Chronicle further, creating a business that will outlive us all and continue to be a reliable, informative and interesting source of local news.

H-F is a great community, and it deserves a great local newspaper. 

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