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April 2010 Archives

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In a revival of this "classic" Friday feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions are based on trailers, ads and advance hype -- NOT THE ACTUAL MOVIE. EVERYONE! DO NOT TAKE THIS AS AN ACTUAL MOVIE REVIEW!

That in mind, here is his COMPLETELY UNINFORMED OPINION of movies out Friday, April 30...

A Nightmare on Elm Street

So this "reworking" of the Freddy and the Dreamers story stars the guy who played Rorschach in "Watchmen." It was directed by the guy who directed Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. And they filmed part of it in Elgin at the Bluff City Cemetery. Still, my heart's not into seeing a movie where 20-year-olds play teens who are slashed up in their dreams -- unless, of course, it was the cast of "Glee" we were talking about. Then I would be first in line to see them all die the painful deaths they so richly deserve.

Beer rating: A couple Old Styles in cans might convince me. But I doubt it.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgPerhaps you had this experience reporter Dave Gathman describes on your way to work this morning...

"It happens every day. You come to a stop sign or a red light at a busy cross street. You conscientiously stop your car at the white line. You turn your head to the left. But because of a sign, fence, bush or tree, you can't tell whether a car or maybe a semi is coming right at you from the left. Or perhaps you look left and either a sharp curve, a 135-degree intersection angle or some other impossible road geometry turns your move into the intersection into an act of blind faith."

Dave named some of those area intersections in his article in today's Courier-News. That includes the Lake and Villa streets near the Courier-News office. There's a dense hedge to the left that blocks the view of traffic when we try to turn onto Villa.

What intersections give you trouble turning?

Add them to our interactive Google map below. View those other readers have posted. And drive safely!

View Tough turns in a larger map

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

gloria.jpgA relative had to go to the emergency room a few years ago and had a horrible experience. I won't say which hospital; I don't want to be accused of not being objective.

This relative required a blood transfusion, but the nurse did not explain the procedure until I asked what they were doing to her. It took six hours in the ER to get a room. Upstairs, later that night, I asked a nurse to get my relative something to eat since she is diabetic and hadn't had a meal all afternoon. The nurse said the kitchen was closed and didn't offer to help find a snack.

reportcard.jpgThen the ER nurse came upstairs. She needed a signature to approve the treatment my relative received hours earlier. The nurse forgot to get a medical release so she got one after the procedure was completed.

The whole situation was very upsetting to the point I didn't want to leave my relative alone at the hospital. Needless to say, if I had filled out a survey for my relative, it would have been negative on all levels.

This is why it is so important for patients to speak up about care they receive in hospitals and for patients to compare care at hospitals. You can't always choose which hospital to go to in an emergency, but you can learn as much as possible to help improve your stay.

The Illinois Department of Public Health's Illinois Hospital Report Card website gives you all the information you need to rate hospitals. We'll bring you the full story in Friday's (UPDATED Monday, May 3) Tuesday's Courier-News. Meantime, the website is easy to log on and use.

Step-by-step instructions (with pictures!) after the jump.

cetera.jpgNOTE: Yes, we read your comments on Between the Bylines. Every one. This thread, we thought was worth its own post from Sun-Times Media West Editorial Director Mike Cetera. So keep the comments coming. You never know when they may lead to a blog post -- or a newspaper article -- all their own!

Journalists as a rule -- one too frequently broken, to be sure -- don't like being the story. We believe the subject is almost always more interesting than the storyteller. But there are actual principles at stake -- namely credibility -- when journalists become the story, particularly when the story is a reporters' cooperation in a government investigation.

Journalists have been jailed (or threatened with imprisonment) trying to uphold the principle that the media should remain free and unfettered from government intrusion. Perhaps the most publicized instance of this was when New York Times reporter Judith Miller was held in contempt of court five years ago for refusing to testify before a grand jury hearing evidence in the outing of a CIA agent. Miller refused to identify a confidential source, arguing her promise to that source was more important than her personal freedom:

"I do not view myself as above the law," Miller told the judge. "You are right to send me to prison."

Miller took a stand to protect her credibility with sources -- Provide me with sensitive information and I will protect you. -- and in turn took a stand for all journalists who make similar pledges.

This is an extreme example.

More common is the example cited in an earlier Between the Bylines post of a police officer asking a Courier-News correspondent for eyewitness information.

More on when journalist become the story at The Courier-News and when we hand over our notes, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for katie.jpgAfter reading over our page two story "W. Dundee brawl still under investigation" yesterday afternoon before it went to print, I closed my word processing screen and opened up my Internet browser to Twitter. Had any news broken since my last peek at the micro-blog?

To my delight, Courier-News Community News Editor Julia Doyle just had posted a snarky comment: "Trying to get a screenshot of video of a local bar fight that's on YouTube. I wonder if this is what it's like to work on Springer?"

springer.jpgI chuckled after reading the post and immediately clicked "Retweet" so I could broadcast the comment to all of my Twitter friends and followers.

Then, about 20 seconds later, I panicked and hit the "undo" button.

What if other journalists at competitor newspapers read my re-broadcast of Julia's tweet? What if @DHinsider or @MySuburbanLife got wind of our story before it broke in today's paper?

More on how we decide what to tweet -- and when, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIt's not often--

"--that the reporters actually get to be witnesses."

Courier-News correspondent Janelle Walker finished my sentence.

Not unless you're Janelle, and you're sitting in Elgin bond call when the accused launches into a rhapsody that starts with, "I WANT MY BOND. WHAT'S MY BOND?" and ends with, "I'm going to pop a cap in your..." uh, matriarch-expletiving expletive. And did I mention he wasn't wearing a shirt at the time? That's what happened when Alex S. Barrera of Elgin (that's him, pictured at right) appeared Friday on theft charges in a video hookup with Judge Bruce Lester.

barrera.jpgWhen I picked up the Saturday police reports documenting Barrera's second trip to bond call, this time on charges of threatening the life of a public official, they named a "Courier-News freelancer" as a witness (the police usually erase the names of the innocent before handing reports out to the papers). After Barrera's threats Friday, the officer filing the report had asked Janelle if he could get some more detail from her, she said.

"Can I just e-mail you my notes?" she asked.

Janelle had been typing the whole time, she said.

"It's what we do every day. So that was funny. ... That's the difference between an eyewitness and a reporter -- we write things down."

That's why I'm taking Janelle's word Barrera had threatened to "pop" the judge's beep-beeping beep. That was how both journalists at bond call quoted him in the police report. Other witnesses had him saying he'd "put a cap in" the judge's blankety blank blank.

And that's yet another reason why we need newspapers: Journalists make the best eyewitnesses. We're trained eyewitnesses. And you'll want us on your side when your lawyer maintains "pop" leaves a lot more wiggle room than "put a cap in."

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In a revival of this "classic" Friday feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions are based on trailers, ads and advance hype -- NOT THE ACTUAL MOVIE. EVERYONE! DO NOT TAKE THIS AS AN ACTUAL MOVIE REVIEW!

That in mind, here is his COMPLETELY UNINFORMED OPINION of movies out Friday, April 23...

The Losers

Yet another movie based on a comic book (see last week's Brew Review of "Kick-A**"), this one is about a some doofus CIA guys who are targeted for assassination and seek revenge on those who want them dead. A hottie leads the team. It has Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who looks like Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Captain America (Chris Evans) in the cast, which makes it really confusing.

Beer rating: Well according to another CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, "a hoppier beer such as an Indian Pale Ale is delicious with spicy cuisines such as Cajun, Mexican, and Thai food." So maybe I'll have a couple of those and use the bottle caps as ear plugs, as the previews make this seem REALLY LOUD.

The Back-Up Plan, actual reviews, after the jump.

julia.jpgAs an apartment dweller, I'm always looking for unique ways to recycle because my Elgin complex didn't offer a way to recycle until this week.

I almost did cartwheels in the middle of the newsroom on Tuesday when they put a note on Facebook they were bringing in a Dumpster for recycling. And lucky me, it's right behind my building! No more loading trash in my car and driving it all over town.

Anyway, here are a few suggestions for recycling here in the Elgin area...

  • Elgin Recycling: Today we featured Elgin Recycling's newest location in Gilberts in our OurTowns section, renamed OurEarth, just for today. (See "Watching their waste.") In addition to aluminum cans, did you know Elgin Recycling also accepts strands of Christmas lights, cell phones and cell phone batteries, old computers (including monitors,) radios, lawnmowers, gas grills and lawn furniture? For details, click to
  • The Courier-News (yeah, that's right!): Paper piling up? Did you know there's a paper recycling Dumpster behind The Courier-News building at 300 Lake St., Elgin? As a consumer of massive quantities of paper, it only makes sense that we try to recycle as much of it as we can. And what's nice is the recycling company donates money to our Newspapers in Education program based on the amount of paper recycled in this bin. So if you've got a bunch of old newspapers, magazines, papers, junk mail, etc. lying around, consider bringing it to the yellow and green Dumpster behind our building.

Find more ideas, share your own, after the jump.

Tough turns

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Thumbnail image for emily.jpgTall hedges. Awkward fences. What else makes it tough to turn on Elgin area streets? And WHERE?

Reporter Dave Gathman is writing a story about obstructed intersections in the Elgin and Hampshire areas that will run Monday (UPDATED Thursday, April 29) Friday in The Courier-News.

Got a good example? Add your intersection and story to our interactive map by clicking on the map below. On the Google Maps page, click edit, then click the blue balloon-looking icon and drag the placemark to the spot.

View Tough turns in a larger map

You also can contact Dave directly at or 847-888-7756.

This is your hometown newspapers' second attempt at a Google Map. The first -- about Places to Play in the Elgin area -- got more than 900 views and six responses, which were featured both in print and online Sunday, April 11, in a Storyteller by reporter Katie Anderson.

So let us know where you think it's tough to make turns, and you could see your stories featured in the newspaper, too!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Like what you see?

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Thumbnail image for emily.jpg...If not, let's change it. After all, this blog is all about you and what you want from The Courier-News.

Already, you suggested and voted on the name for Between the Bylines.

Thumbnail image for bethebyoriginal.jpgBut take that tag line: "Join the conversation on the news behind The Courier-News." That's something we came up with. Not doing it for you? We can change that.

And our logo (at right).

Sun-Times Media West designer Nick Escobar is working on a logo for Between the Bylines. And, well, one of our reporters suggested the pen tip clip art in his first draft looks more like a corset.

Granted, in our previous post, several readers suggested The Courier-News reporting team could be a little "edgier" on the blog. So maybe you like that.

But we've got a few more logo options we'd like your thoughts on, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgI take it, since you're reading this, you heard from Twitter, Facebook or the print or online editions of The Courier-News your hometown newspaper's Between the Bylines blog officially launches today.

Well, here it is!

Reader Jessica Thompson shared her thoughts about newspapers blogging in today's Readers' Reporter column, "Whaddya want from The Courier-News blog?," even turning the tables to ask, "So what is this blog about?"

The answer...?

(Excuse the poor sound quality, the "ums" and "likes" and the background noise. This was a pretty informal conversation over lunch at Al's Cafe & Creamery in Elgin.)


Hear more audio clips of my conversation with Jessica Thompson, read other readers' ideas and leave yours after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgGot questions about the city of Elgin?

You can cut out the middle man (Isn't that what the Internet is for?) and ask Mayor Ed Schock yourself.

Mayor Schock once again will host a live online chat from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 22, following his "State of the City" address. At that time, you can join on the city's Web site,

  • Click on "Live Chat with Mayor Schock."

  • Sign in as a guest, and you will be redirected to the special Webcast.

  • Watch the mayor speak, then type in questions, and he will respond directly in the Webcast.

Would you rather ask your questions in person -- you know, the old-fashioned way? You can watch the chat live at the Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way, then ask Mayor Schock your questions afterward.

And be sure to report back to us with any interesting questions and answers!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgRosie O'Hare's, 702 Water St., East Dundee, recently started promoting that it allows dogs in the establishment on Sunday afternoons.

dogsplayingpoker.jpgThe bar provides water and an occasional treat for the canines. And it makes sense -- the manager is Leo "Dog" Shales, so how could he not let his own in the pub?

Still, we're wondering if there are any other places in the area where your pooch is welcome.

Let us know. If we get enough responses, we'll put together a round-up for the print edition of The Courier-News.

-- Mike Danahey, Staff Writer

danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In a revival of this "classic" Friday feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions are based on trailers, ads and advance hype.

That in mind, here are his reviews of movies out Friday, April 16...


(Click here for the trailer, less SFW.)

Some nerd kid decides he can become a superhero without actually having any super powers. This inspires other kids to fight crime in costumes, too. Nicolas Cage is in it, which means it has to be goofy. I put the ** there because this blog is run by a "family" newspaper. Which is odd, as this movie is AIMED at families.

Beer rating: A pitcher of sugar-free Kool-Aid. And that's only if my niece and nephew are in town. Middle-aged single guy rule: You don't go to kids movies unless it involves babysitting duties or trying to impress your divorced date and she drags you to the flick with them.

"Death at a Funeral," after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgApparently, I'm not the only one who thought that fireball story was pretty great. Our article in The Courier-News made the front page of Google News (click below to enlarge)...


Thanks to reader Joel Miller for catching that -- and tweeting it -- this morning!

Did you see that?!

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Thumbnail image for emily.jpgYou know, I moved to Chicago about two years ago because that's where I thought the action would be. But in the past few months, the Elgin area has seen the mythical Plank Road Panther, an earthquake and A MYSTERIOUS FIREBALL IN THE NIGHT SKY?!

That fireball was spotted just after 10 p.m. yesterday in northern Illinois, Indiana and Missouri and southern Wisconsin, according to Sun-Times Media reports. And Lt. Pat Gengler of the Kane County Sheriff's Office said the department got reports of sightings "from the south of the county to the north of the county."

Here's video from the Howard County Sheriff's Office in Iowa along the Minnesota border:

Did you see the fireball?!

Share your photos and stories here or contact me at or 847-888-7773. I'll include them in my article for Friday's Courier-News!

katie.jpgAs part of our effort to become your 21st Century newsroom, The Courier-News debuted its first interactive map last month.

The Google Map was an effort on our part to connect with you, dear readers, and get some feedback to include in a Sunday Storyteller.

The article -- "Why Play Matters" -- addressed play in the Fox Valley. It focused on changes in the places kids play and the activities kids growing up in the Elgin area have played over time.

It ran, with some of your responses, in our print and online editions Sunday, April 11.

View Places to Play in a larger map

While you are always encouraged to connect with us via e-mail, phone, Facebook and Twitter, for this story we literally wanted you to show us where your favorite places to play were and mark them on a map we all could view and share.

We received six responses in our first attempt at sharing an interactive map with you. And it got more than 470 views. Not bad for a start!

We welcome your comments on how this experiment worked and would like to hear your suggestions for future use of interactive maps. Are there stories you think could be improved or expanded by including an interactive map? Is there something you'd like to encourage the community to plot together?

Let us know, and thanks for reading!

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgThere are some things time and technology may never replace. The feeling of a newspaper page between your inky, newsprint-stained fingers, for instance. (Anybody...? No? Just me?)

But for everything else, well... it seems like there's an app for that.

Like price comparison.

Sure, you can drive around to every grocery store in the Fox Valley area (or nine of them) to find the best prices as several Courier-News reporters and editors, myself included, recently did for Dave Gathman's cover story, "Are You Bagging a Bargain?" Or you can download one of the many barcode-scanning, price-comparing applications now available on your smart phone.


Reporter Emily McFarlan uses her smart phone to scan the barcode on a jar of coffee, that essential tool of journalism.

Just point and scan... after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgI'm not sure which I'm more excited about: The fact Between the Bylines got a plug on the Chicago Tribune's Trib Nation blog today, still a week out from our official launch... or the fact we're MENTIONED IN THE SAME POST AS JOHN CUSACK.

tribnation.jpgProbably that first thing. Yup. Now I'm the one blushing all over.

Yes, the Chicago Tribune technically is our competition as a Sun-Times Media newspaper. But, to quote another great journalism movie (coughAnchormancough), "At the bottom of my gut, with every inch of me, I plain, straight hate you. But ... I respect you!"

It's hard not to respect a news outlet, led by a social media Mensch like Trib Nation Manager James Janega, that says it "couldn't agree more" with the importance of maintaining a personable relationship with its readers:

"If we're available 24 hours a day and seven days a week -- and responsive about errors or questions or updates -- people notice, and that's a good thing. We're trying."

We're trying, too. Let us know how we're doing!

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgI didn't say it. Cindy Goldberg of The Social Journalist -- and our sister paper The (Aurora) Beacon-News -- did today in a SoJourno post titled Blogging brings newsroom personality to life.

Goldberg talks about Between the Bylines at length, even though The Courier-News blog doesn't officially launch for another week.

sojourno.jpgBut, she pointed out, already we've let readers vote on the name of the blog. (You'll also remember, we let you suggest those names to begin with.) And we're letting you suggest what you want the blog to be about.

And this excites Goldberg. In her own words:

"I'm so excited about this because it shakes print media out of the normal, simple, easy way to engage with readers via Facebook and Twitter. And maybe, just perhaps, this kind of open communication between newsroom staff and readers could strengthen the trust consumers have in newspapers (and media as a whole)."


What do you think? You're the reader. You're the one we're conjecturing about here.

As Goldberg asks, are you more interested in a newspaper that aims to connect with you on a more personal level?

emily.jpgWhen I started as your Readers' Reporter at The Courier-News more than two years ago, I had a phone and an e-mail address and a pretty great idea, I thought. Here in the newsroom, we wanted to hear your stories.

About a year later, Sun-Times Media gave me the go-ahead to start Twitter and Facebook accounts so we could join the conversation with you, wherever you already were online. And I quoted the classic 1940 film "His Girl Friday."

In the film, Cary Grant, as newspaper editor Walter Burns, has an escaped murderer trapped in a desk and is on the phone, shuffling stories in the next day's newspaper to make room for the breaking news.

Put Hitler on the funny pages, he says. Forget the Polish Corridor.

"No, no, leave the rooster story alone -- that's human interest."

That's what I said then I wanted to write. Not about roosters, but compelling human-interest stories with local connections about people in our towns involved in noteworthy or unusual happenings.

Now Sun-Times Media has set me up with a blog. And I'm going to quote another great newspaper movie, after the jump.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.