With this issue, Gazette Chicago begins its 40th year of publishing. Like any other milestone moment in life, you know that day is coming and yet you say to yourself, “don’t worry, it’s in the future—it won’t be here that quickly.” We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Whether it’s pondering the beginning of a new millennium and what life will be like in the year 2000; the time of your silver or golden wedding anniversary; when your first child turns 21 years old; when you get all dressed up to attend your 25th, 40th, or 50th year high school reunion; or when it is time to retire from your long-time job. Time passes much too quickly.
I hope you’ve read the “walk down memory lane” article beginning on page 3 in this issue as Associate Editor William S. Bike takes us back to 1983, when the first iteration of this newspaper—Near West Gazette—made its debut. If so, you will know that this editor and publisher was only 24 years old when we began this incredible journey.
I might have been a bit naïve back then—not being able to fully comprehend the enormity of this undertaking. After all, starting up a community newspaper with little more than $500 in my pocket and no capital investment firms behind me with wads of money to keep things going might be considered a bit Don Quixote-esque. But, hey, I’ve been tilting at windmills, trying to fight the good fight in this community, for many years. And, very importantly, may I add, “by the grace of God, go I.” And, so here we are, with a whole lot of answered prayers and God’s blessings along the way, ready to head full steam into volume number 40.
For the average reader, that little number at the top of the masthead on page one each issue might not mean much, but to a newspaper publisher, who toils with his staff day in and day out to bring the news that’s important to you, watching those volume numbers go by is like watching the sands in an hourglass—you keep on marveling and wondering as to how much more time do we really have.
To say 40 years has flown quickly is like a hummingbird trying to find shelter in a hurricane. This not hyperbole—I truly cannot tell you how this all really happened. Except to say it didn’t happen by accident and it didn’t happen because of just one person—it took at the beginning, and throughout these four decades, an enormous amount of work, commitment, passion and love for the profession of journalism and for this community, by a very long list of people to bring you Gazette Chicago (in whatever form or name it has had over the years) each and every month and year.
I cannot list every single person who has contributed to this newspaper in one column—I hope you don’t mind though if throughout the next several months, that I share with you some further reflections as we celebrate and look back at the people, places, and fervent issues that have brought us to this moment in time.
I would like to take a moment to thank some folks who really have been there for me (more to come in future issues). First, my late parents, Ralph, and Della. If you read the history article, you know the roles that they have played in my life and within this newspaper—but what you don’t know is that each, in his or her unique way, gave me the nudge that I needed to enter the profession of journalism. Dad was a circulation driver for several of Chicago’s daily papers and brought all four—yes, there were four of them in the 1970s—home to read each evening. I would sit at the kitchen table and read through the papers with him. I enjoyed getting the black ink on my hands and gravitated to the news and sports sections. Mom was the one who taught me valuable life lessons in generosity, empathy, and respect for individuals. She had “an open door policy” and a fresh pot of hot coffee on for any of her fellow neighbors who needed an attentive ear and a kind shoulder. My brothers Anthony, Randy, and Michael, each have played a role in this newspaper for decades and are part of my cornerstone. William S. “Bill” Bike and Anne Nordhaus-Bike—our associate and assistant editors from day one—are more than just part of this editorial board; they, too, are my family.
All my friends at The DePaulia newspaper who gave me my start in this profession—Jean Lachowicz, who saw something in me that said I was “editor-in-chief” material and the entire staff who mentored and nurtured this “bold italic” along the way. The nickname was a tip of the cap to the Little Italy neighborhood that I grew up in and a willingness to take on some real hard news stories while at the helm of The DePaulia. Al Kipp, my moderator when I was editor of The DePaulia my senior year (1979-1980), who helped me understand the enormity and the responsibility of being an editor. My current staff of incredible and dedicated reporters—some of them who have written for Gazette Chicago for several decades—and Julie Becker, who wears two hats as our advertising manager and graphic designer and Kim Arias, another of our designers who has been with us for many years.
Most essentially, my wife Carmen, who served as advertising manager for more than 20 years, leading us through the most prolific growth in the history of the newspaper, and still plays a critical role as business manager, and our children, Gabriella, Rachel, and Christopher. Not only has each of them supported this newspaper with their time and talents, but they have provided me with unconditional love and more understanding and patience than I have deserved, as I have tried to balance two jobs and being a husband and father. More to come on what a family means to a newspaper publisher in the future.
And of course, the readers, advertisers, and news sources in the ten communities Gazette Chicago covers. You have been our life blood—providing us with news tips on issues in our communities, telling others that Gazette Chicago is a must read each month, and providing the revenue streams to keep us in business.
To say that Gazette Chicago has been able to survive through four recessions; a once in 100-years pandemic; the tragedy, heroism, and patriotism of 9-11; two long and brutal wars in the Middle East; and a social and political upheaval and awakening makes all of this even harder to comprehend. Through it all, I have had a tremendous support system that has kept me going. Please keep in mind that at no time in the history of this newspaper have I ever had the opportunity or privilege to serve in this role full-time. The economics of the community newspaper industry—especially one on a monthly publication cycle—have meant that I have always worked in other professions to provide for my family, and yes, from time-to-time, to infuse the newspaper with money to help keep it going.
In this issue, you will also read about Gazette Chicago and the CivicLab coming together to do what just about every other news organization in America is doing these days—turning to readership for support to make sure we can continue to publish, bring you the news you need to know, and frankly, to help preserve our democracy.
Because Gazette Chicago does not yet have non-profit status (it takes money and time to make that transition), the CivicLab has graciously agreed to be our fiscal agent. This means that as a 501(c)3 organization, CivicLab can accept donations on our behalf and return them back to us. Meanwhile, you receive the full tax-deductible benefits of a charitable deduction.
So, please read the page one article on how you can help keep us going. Consider a monthly, recurring membership donation, or a larger one-time gift. Our long-term goal is aspirational—we plan to raise a minimum of $250,000 over the next two years to keep Gazette Chicago strong and going forward. We will raise that money through individual contributions and, hopefully, from local and national foundations that increasingly understand that to preserve journalism in this country, they must step into the breach as print advertising revenue streams nationally continue to decrease. Our cover story goes into detail on what print journalism has had to endure these past two decades.
So, to all our friends who have offered testimonials in print and in ads this issue, to all our generous advertisers along the way, and to our loyal readers new and old, thank you. Sincerely, thank you. Without all of you—this incredible milestone would not be possible. And to all of you who will make a donation over the coming weeks and months to sustain us—I thank you in advance for your confidence in us and your partnership. Journalism these days is no easy profession—many elected officials, government workers, community leaders, and corporate heads do all they can not to engage with our reporters—who, by the way, are part of your voice in the community and in this city and state. And, yet we press on. Fighting the good fight for you, your families, and your neighbors. May God bless each one of you.