What a difference 5,475 days make

Mike Slonoff is getting married tomorrow.

Fifteen years ago, when his father, Jim, and I started this paper, he was a senior at Hinsdale Central. We’d see him in the halls while we were working on a story (why wasn’t he in class, Jim would wonder) or spot him in uniform on the sidelines while covering a football game. Mike’s little brother, Matt, was a second-grader at Madison School in 2006. Now he’s a petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy.

Fifteen years ago my daughter, Ainsley, had yet to be born. I lived in a different house with a different dog (two, in fact, and a cat) and had yet to celebrate my 40th birthday.

A lot changes in 15 years, personally and professionally.

Our first paper was only 44 pages — more than a third smaller than our largest issue — and yet it took us until almost 6 p.m. to get it to our printer. We haven’t been that late since.

Flipping through the pages of that first issue (we keep a laminated copy in the office) makes me smile.

On Page 5 we covered Hinsdale Central’s homecoming and the Hall of Fame inductees. My column is on Page 10, with the headshot I hated (but felt the need to use for a year because we hired a studio photographer to take it). John Bourjaily was our first contributing columnist, writing an encouraging piece for Cubs fans almost a decade before there was really anything to be encouraged about.

We wrote a 60 Seconds personality profile and an Ask an Expert article and a sports story and ran the names of the National Merit Semifinalists in Good News. We’ve tweaked our design a bit since then and changed up the way we cover some things. But the essence of who we are and what we hope to do every week is there, even in that very first issue.

My favorite part of the issue are the congratulatory ads, from the president of the National Newspaper Association (who is also a friend) to Hinsdale Bank & Trust Co. (which is also our bank) to a bunch of Jim’s neighbors (also friends, obviously). The ads remind me both how long we’ve been part of this industry and how long we’ve been part of this community.

I think that’s what makes the difference in what we do here. We are dedicated to “Community journalism the way it was meant to be” not only because we are dedicated to community journalism but because we are dedicated to this community.

I first heard of Hinsdale in the late 1980s when my dad was transferred here for work. I’ve worked here since my first job out of college at the Hinsdale Community Pool.

It was during my 18 years at The Doings that I really got to know this town, especially when the Hinsdale reporter went on maternity leave and I covered the village for her for six weeks. (Her baby just had a baby, speaking of change.) I learned a lot about other towns, too, writing on the education beat and later assigned to Western Springs. But Hinsdale always had a special place in my heart.

This is the town where a 16-year-old Dan Merrill started a new newspaper to report “all the doings in town” all the way back in 1895. I wrote in my very first Hinsdalean column that we were honored to carry on his work. That remains as true today as it did a decade and a half ago.

Countless things have changed since Merrill started his paper 126 years ago. The way people feel about this community, I would venture to say, has not.

And that’s what makes it such a joy to cover. Thanks for 15 great years — and all the ones to come.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].