My Writing Life

News writing career spans three states--Illinois, Indiana, and Arkansas

My first news story was published in 1988 in the Daily Journal, in Kankakee where I worked as a Correspondent and later as a staff writer. I've also done freelance and staff work for Russell Publications, which among others, publishes the Peotone Vedette and Beecher Herald in those respective communities. 

I also worked as a correspondent for the Northwest Indiana Times, Munster, IN and more recently at the Baxter Bulletin, Mountain Home, AR.  

In addition to writing, I have also held newspaper staff positions, including: reporter, office manager, editor, and photographer.

Other exciting freelance projects

I've had the opportunity to take on some other, very satisfying freelance projects. Some of them include:  

 Developed a public relations presentation, that included slides and text for the forest preserve district in Kankakee, IL

Subcontracted with a consultant for the USDA, conducting interviews and documenting stories about the conversion of farmland to development use.

Spoke to the local high school journalism class for Career Day.

Written opinion columns as well as ghostwriting, editing, and proofreading, and even some consulting.

Designed, edited brochures.

Designed several websites

Activism, community organizing

I've probably written more about a proposed transportation project in Illinois than any other topic, or more than any other writer, but I had another role as well. 

It all began in 1987 when I heard about a proposal to build a new airport in the farm fields south of Chicago The proposed airport was to be more than three times the size of O'Hare International Airport.

The plan resurrected an old idea from the 1960's. How is that progress?

The location was a few miles from where I lived, a small town with a population of about 2,000 people.

Beecher, Illinois was a farming community, much like downstate Illinois. Tar and chip roads accommodated slow-moving combines used by farmers who tended to acres and acres of corn, wheat, and soybean crops. It was not the kind of place where jets take off and land. I grew up near O'Hare and just couldn't quite imagine the folly of plopping a huge, commercial airport into a peaceful, bucolic area that would displace mostly prime and important farmland, not to mention the generations of farmers that called that their home. 

The airport had been dubbed the 3rd airport, but ironically, that moniker has also been given to other regional airports in the Chicagoland area: Gary/Chicago in Gary, IN; Mitchell International in Milwaukee, WI; and Chicago/Rockford International in Rockford, IL. With O'Hare and Midway, a new airport would be the sixth regional airport. 

I set out to make some sense of what seemed to be totally illogical. I kept an open mind, trying to learn all I could about the who, what, where, why, and how of this project. 

In all the years this airport has been proposed, it has never made sense. 

What I learned, confirmed my initial suspicion, that this was a folly. Claims of jobs and economic development disguised the real issue; it was about control of lucrative contracts, jobs for political pals, and enough clout for politicians to stay in office to feed at the public trough for as long as they liked. Big project reap big rewards, especially in Illinois where the pay-to-play system runs rampant. The result has been four governors who became convicted felons and served time in a federal penitentiary. The latest, ex-Gov. Rod Blogojevich was sentenced to 14 years following in the footsteps of his predecessor George Ryan who has also served a sentence of 6 1/2 years. 

I was angered by the thought of it. 

Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 2, 1988, with 13 other people established Residents United to Retain Agricultural Land, (RURAL). We held local meetings as the organization grew. We passed petitions, held rallies, and did whatever it took. The biggest supporters were public officials who didn't want to be bothered with the public.

One of my proudest moments was my invitation to join a panel of experts to hold a lively discussion on the pros and cons of the project on WTTW's Chicago Tonight, hosted by the late John Callaway.

Another high point, was an invitation to meet Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Chicago opposed the project.

Ironically, this led to the start of my writing career. I was hired as a correspondent, with my first story published in September, 1988. Because the airport project was such a huge issue in the area that I covered, there were times I had no choice but to write about it. I was fortunate to have an editor who recognized that my passion about the project would actually make me a better reporter. 

At times I walked a tightrope between activism and journalism, while seeking truth on one side and relaying it on the other. For years maintaining the balance was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Reconciling my personal feelings with my desire for legitimacy and professionalism was not easy, but was important to me.

This balancing act continued until 1997 when I turned RURAL over to a man I trusted. George Ochsenfeld. Ochsenfeld created STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down) which continues fighting the proposal today.

It is now 2013 and I continue to write about the proposed airport. 

Visit the age old question,
Does Chicago need a third airport?