Last week, Reporter editor Jeff Vorva used his column, ImPRESSions, to write about his favorite moment of 2014. Not his favorite story, per se. Rather, he wrote about a behind-the-scenes moment he experienced while on a photo assignment for a story that ran on our front page.
Jeff suggested that I borrow the theme for the B-Side. It sounded like a good idea, but I couldn’t think of any particular moment or story during the year that was especially moving or touching.
The more I thought about it, however, there was one moment I experienced this year that was unique.
It happened several weeks ago during an Oak Lawn Village Board meeting, and it had nothing to do with the opposite sides of village government going at it again over an issue like the 911 dispatch center or some other point of contention.
Quite the opposite.
Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) used a portion of his report to thank all the reporters who cover the community.
Some simply attend village board meetings, others cover the village on a day-to-day basis, writing stories about the village, schools, park district, crime, break news and features. Either way, Desmond wanted to give us a moment of recognition.
He wanted everyone to know that we work hard at what we do, strive to write fair and balanced stories and sometimes face resistance in our effort to do our job.
It was a surprise, to be sure.
I’ve been in and out of the newspaper business since 1987. I covered Park Ridge in the late1980s, Roselle and Bloomingdale in the early 1990s, the LaGrange area for a brief period in 1998-99 and towns throughout the Southland as a freelancer for the SouthtownStar for many years.
I’ve sat in many a meeting, cultivated relationships with numerous public officials—even angered a few—but never has anyone taken a moment during a meeting to say, “Hey, you folks in the media. Thanks. You do a good job, work hard, strive to be objective, provide a service.”
But Tim Desmond did.
I suppose one could argue Desmond was trying to curry favor with reporters, but that’s not my sense. It wouldn’t work even if that were his goal.
Desmond’s been a trustee since 2013 and not long after he was elected, I wrote a story about his failure to file the required paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections before running for office.
I called Tim when I was writing the story and he responded to my questions. He didn’t put me off, avoid my calls or fall back on “no comment” when I asked about the misstep.
In the weeks and months after the story broke, I called Desmond for other stories and spoke to him at village board meetings. He never treated me differently or acted as though he was angry about the initial story.
That’s good. He gets it. If you choose to run for office or hold elective office, facing questions from the press is part of the deal.
It doesn’t always work that way. There are elected officials who harbor grudges and don’t forget about the bad press they receive. Those are the ones who typically don’t return phone calls or do so only if getting a quote in the paper serves their interests.
It’s all part of the game we play, I suppose. My stories are better if they include quotes from all parties involved. Conversely, local officials have much to gain from the media and getting their message across.
Desmond is up for re-election in the spring. He faces a challenge from Cindy Trautsch, who he defeated in 2013 for a two-year term on the board.
Trautsch was the one who filed the complaint with the state about Desmond’s missing paperwork. Clearly, she’s kept an eye on village politics and was aiming for rematch with Desmond.
Good luck to her. Good luck to him.
We’ll write stories about all three trustee races in Oak Lawn and give all the candidates a chance to complete surveys, be interviewed and explain their platforms.
Desmond might tout the jobs program he created or talk about the regular district meeting he’s hosted for residents. Look for Trautsch to tie Desmond to the Bury administration, bring up the ongoing 911dispatch center saga, among other issues. It will be interesting.
Rest assured, I’m not going to go easy on Desmond because he said “thanks” during a board meeting. But I do appreciate the gesture because we all like to be thanked or recognized now and then. It’s human nature.