The Elgin Courier

In the summer of 2010, the longtime editor and publisher of The Elgin Courier retired. She’d been working at the paper for 50 years. Her husband, a former mayor, took photographs while her sister ran advertising and the front desk. The Courier was more than just a job – it was a way of contributing to the town she’d called home her entire life. When she finally did retire, the town held a reception in her honor, and several politicians and business leaders wondered who would be her replacement.

It turned out to be me, at least for a summer.

The Courier’s parent company had lined up a new publisher several weeks in advance, but hadn’t been able to find an editor within the company. I was shopping my resume looking for summer jobs, and the incoming publisher offered me an interim gig at the Courier. My job was to help him get established and to keep the editorial content flowing and the news coverage constant.

The Courier offered a unique editorial challenge. On the one hand, we knew we wanted to make a few changes; the print layout in particular was pretty old school, and the web site and Facebook page were underdeveloped. On the other hand, though, we knew the community was very much accustomed to the previous editor’s methods and coverage. Moving too fast, or too drastically, would generate a lot of complaints.

So, I juggled traditional coverage of summer festivals and events, and modest adjustments to the design and web site, with a heightened focus on local crime, elections, and city council news. It wasn’t always easy to find the right balance, and we knew we were being evaluated by the community as a whole. We also knew I was an intermediary headed back to school in the fall, so I was careful not to move in directions that my successor might not pursue. News selection could be challenging, and it was the first time I’d used InDesign at great length since my days as Managing Editor of The Trinitonian in college, but overall it was a successful and productive summer.