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Thumbnail image for emily.jpgWhen I started working at The Courier-News almost exactly three years ago, one of the things then-Managing Editor Mike Bailey tasked me with was creating the role of the Readers' Reporter at the newspaper.

It was something I had done previously at an intern at our sister paper, the Naperville Sun: Run my phone number and e-mail address in the paper for readers to contact me with story ideas. Run a column every week in the newspaper with the stories that came out of those readers' ideas.

The idea was to tell the stories of ordinary residents doing extraordinary things, and of the odds and ends and goings-on they were involved in in our communities. And over the years, you've called in with some pretty great ideas. I've met former Olympians and the man responsible for destroying the shopping center in The Blues Brothers. I've been to the set and premiere of a zombie movie filmed in Elgin and gotten my personality analyzed at the Scientology mission, also in Elgin.

But today's column, about a 61-year-old South Elgin woman who recently ran her first half-marathon -- with arthritis, even! -- will be my last in The Courier-News.

What about your story ideas?! After the jump.

NOTE: Carpentersville-based Community Unit School District 300 students headed back to school yesterday. But what did they do on their summer vacations? Well, Jessica Jordan of Hampshire High School shadowed Courier-News reporter Katie Anderson for a day.

Jessica shares what she learned about journalism and your hometown newspaper...

I was able to go and spend the day with Katie Anderson at The Courier-News building and follow her to see what a day as a journalist is like. It was a very good experience seeing what someone does. I was able to look into the career and see what type of work being a journalist is really about.

Being in high school is a challenge, and to really decide what sort of career path you want to go into is not easy. The opportunity to visit and work with people in different careers helps with making a decision and at least gives students a better idea of the career they are interested in.

First thing on the agenda for the day was to visit the court house. While there, we went to the court room and were able to listen to the police reports from the night before, also known as bond hearings. I found it interesting listening to the penalties the judge gives. It was an exciting environment to be in and to watch the way Katie took notes. Her notes had very few words and little about the person in trouble. It seems like you need to be able to remember a lot about the morning and be able to write it all later.

Was the Courier just like the newsrooms you see in movies? Find out, after the jump!

Thumbnail image for katie.jpgFor all you amateur astronomers, I have great news: The Perseids meteor shower will be at its peak tonight through Friday at dawn!

Residents who get away from city lights and look up should be able to see the Perseids shower with the naked eye. And this year, like last year, is expected to be meteor-rich with about 50 streaks of light per hour.

Although the meteors are often called "shooting stars," the lights you'll see in the sky this week are not really stars. The streaks are small bits of interplanetary debris from the tail end of a comet (109 P-Swift-Tuttle, to be exact.) The light is produced when the debris crashes and burns high in Earth's atmosphere.

More about meteors, viewing tips, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgNOTE: When I (Emily McFarlan) took over as your Readers' Reporter, lo those many years ago, and asked you, readers, what you were interested in reading, one of the very first responses I got was, "Did you know Elgin has an AWESOME music scene?" That launched a short-lived, semi-weekly Readers' Reporter column about local artists in The Courier-News' "Our" pages I had to drop after we made some changes to those pages. But this blog is supposed to be a place for those things we can't fit into the newspaper. And a place for conversation between readers and reporters.

Staff writer Katie Anderson has found a reader excited to write about the local music scene: Jason Duarte will be blogging Wednesdays exclusively on Between the Bylines. Here's a little bit more about Jason...

jason.jpgCourier-News reporter (and close friend, former co-worker and classmate) Katie Anderson asked me to write a music blog for the Courier the other day. Immediately, I said OK. Actually, I think it was more along the lines of, "Yes! I've been longing for a writing outlet! Rad! Thank you!"

I had a weekly music blog at Eastern Illinois University's Daily Eastern News when I was the associate editor for The Verge, the DEN's weekly entertainment paper, from 2007 to 2008. I'd write about USB-equipped turntables, review albums and shows, interview musicians and write about not just music, but all things entertainment. After class and newspaper obligations, starting at 10 p.m., I worked with Katie at EIU's printing press throughout the week, developing the next day's newspaper. Around 2 a.m., I'd walk home with "news from the future," as I liked to convince my drunken college neighbors.

During my last semester at EIU, my Verge editor (now current Daily Herald reporter), Marco Santana and I, won third place in Illinois at the Illinois College Press Association for "Best Entertainment Supplement." We dug it, to say the least.

More on Jason's music cred, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for julia.jpgDO NOT ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER MONITORS.

bigbird.JPGThe photo at right was not taken from a scene in "Big Bird Earns Her Diploma." It's me on my graduation day - way back in 1992 - at Waukegan High School.

I'm no fashionista, but pasty, pale redheads - like me -- should NEVER wear the color yellow. But there I was graduating high school, forced to wear this gold, shiny polyester monstrosity, and I was not a happy camper. As a result, this is one of the few photos that exist of me in the gown.

I never thought this photo would again see the light of day, but when we got to talking about high school graduations and getting readers to send in photos for our online gallery for the Class of 2010, I immediately thought of my own high school graduation day. I figured there had to be some old school graduation photos that were as awfully colorful as mine.

So I'm sharing this photo and throwing down the graduation gauntlet. Can you top my garish gold graduation gown? Send me your jpg-formatted photos at Please include your name, year of graduation (be honest), and your current city of residence.

We'll pick some of our favorites and post them on the blog!

-- Julia Doyle, Community News Editor

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgNOTE: Got questions about journalism? We promised you we'd answer them. Now we're back from the Memorial Day holiday, and we're ready for more! Here's the next Q and A...

"What's the Courier doing to embrace this change?" -- frankwolfton, via blog comment

Ask and ye shall receive.

You asked if we still thought it was a good idea for young people to get into newspapers. We answered: YES! The fact that people need newspapers hasn't changed. What has and likely will is the way people read those newspapers, thanks to something you may have heard of called "the Interwebs."

To which, you asked, well, what is The Courier-News doing about that?

Oh, I'm so glad you asked. As your Readers' Reporter, I'm the fingers behind the keyboard, if you will. The Courier's resident geek. The one coming up with hackneyed ideas for Facebook and Twitter pages and blogs and hacking out most of the posts for all of the above. And I could talk about this all day.

Let's start with the big one...

Social media. One of the things the Internet has changed about the way you read the news is it's become a social experience. According to Pew Internet, 59 percent of Americans get their news from a combination of online and offline sources. Of those, 75 percent get that news via e-mail or social networks, and 52 percent will pass it on through those means.

Since social media is where you're getting your news, social media is where we're putting it. We have three Twitter accounts: @courierrss (headlines from our RSS feeds), @courierfbscores (sports) and @couriernews (breaking news and interaction with yours truly). I've also made Twitter Lists for each of the communities we cover and each of the regular sections in The Courier-News. We have a Facebook fan page. We even did the MySpace thing for a while... but seriously. Does anybody even use MySpace anymore?! (If I'm wrong, and that's important to you -- let me know. I'll start updating our profile again.)

And we've made it easy for you to pass it on through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc., with a "Share/Bookmark" link at the top of each article on The Courier-News website (and the bottom of every blog post).

E-mail, smartphones and this here blog, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpg"We all have those memories."

That's what Rene Hernandez told me. Hernandez is event director for the former Santa's Village property at routes 25 and 72 in East Dundee.

santasvillage.jpgHe shared his memories of the theme park, which closed in 2006, in Monday's centerpiece, "More than Memories" (which, incidentally, also ran in our sister paper -- or is it mothership? -- the Chicago Sun-Times with the title "Santa's Village 'kind of reopening things'"). So did Charles Black of Impact Business Solutions Inc., which also helps plan events on the property. And shoppers at the Santa's Village Flea Market last weekend. AND... well... you.

Here are two of the absolute funniest memories of Santa's Village you shared with me on Facebook and Twitter...

Melissa_Owens: My brother screaming in mortal fear to get off the Salt & Pepper Shaker while riding w/me--I loved it. posted Monday from Chicago Metro via Twitter

Melissa_Owens: Also, hitting a bumper car driven by an older woman & her g-daughter - woman's wig fell off & was run over. posted Monday from Chicago Metro via Twitter

More of your Santa's Village memories, plus photos, video and your Readers' Reporter's (albeit vague) memories of the theme park, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgToday's Readers' Reporter column, about Larkin High School senior Justin Lewis who took asking his date to prom to new heights, came from his mom, Paulette Lewis of Elgin. Thanks, Paulette! And if you have a story, you can send that to me, too. Or tweet me. Or Facebook me. Or, you know, call me the old-fashioned way at 847-888-7773. That's a landline phone. That doesn't have Caller ID.

And if you have a prom story that tops Justin's, leave us a comment and tell us about it.

We don't. But reporter Katie Anderson had a pretty fly ride to her junior prom. And I dug up a picture for you to mock (at right).

prom.jpgThat's right. I was the prom queen. Of a Lutheran high school in Springfield with a total 200 students. Yes, my reign was glorious. And my hair was very red.

While the prom king, Josh (pictured), clearly was the most popular guy in our senior class, I wouldn't say I was the most popular girl. But I did have a microphone. Literally. I was in the group that did school announcements in every morning during second period.

For months, I scripted announcements for various extracurriculars mimicking that weekend's "Wake Up, Wakefield" sketch on Saturday Night Live. For those of you who didn't have a permanent date with Jimmy Fallon penciled into your calendar at 10:30 p.m. every Saturday through the early Aughts, let me refresh your memory: In each sketch, Maya Rudolph's character, Megan, would sign off the Wakefield Middle School announcements by professing her love for Fallon's character with, "I am the future Mrs. Randy Goldman." I would randomly profess my love for most of the guys in my class, none seriously, and none so often as Josh, who enjoyed the joke, if yearbook signatures are to be believed. I think most of our class did as well, because they ended up voting us king and queen.

Read Katie's story and view reader-submitted prom pictures, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIs Between the Bylines "how it's done?"

annatarkov.jpgChicago journalist Anna Tarkov seems to think so. Earlier this month, Tarkov said The Courier-News' new blog is "how it's done" and "all news organizations should have something similar set up" on her Posterous blog.

That's another awfully nice compliment for Between the Bylines. And, hey, I like a compliment as much as the next girl.

But the most important thing is what YOU, our readers, think of the blog. Are these the sorts of things you want to read about? Are you getting the "view of the journalist's struggle" and "Danahey's humor" you asked for? We're open to changing course or trying new things, too.

Let us know what you want to read... Between the Bylines.

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emily.jpg"I'm normally not the one being interviewed, so it's a little different for me."

No that's not a quote from one of our Courier-News reporters. It's a quote from 10-year-old Heather Anderson, a fifth-grader at Lake in the Hills Elementary.

Heather recently was named one of 19 finalists in the Library of Congress' Letters about Literature contest, which asked students nationwide to write a letters to authors whose books inspired them. In Heather's case, that was Miley Cyrus and her autobiography "Miles to Go." Also in Heather's case, that author wrote her a letter back, encouraging her to follow her dreams, she said.

(Read today's Readers' Reporter column -- "LITH girl has 'Miles to Go'" -- for the full story.)

Right now, Heather told me, her dream is to become a reporter. Already, she writes for Lake in the Hill's K.V. (Kids' View) Chronicle. So I thought i'd do what I could to help her make that dream come true... by giving Heather her very first byline in The Courier-News.

Here's the full text of Heather's letter...

Dear Miley Cyrus

miley.jpgBy Heather Anderson
For The Courier-News

What really inspired me in your book was to find out that famous people, are still normal people. Okay, maybe their dream came true, but that doesn't mean they should make you feel insecure about yourself. That concept has a powerful meaning to me. It changed my perspective on how I view myself. That's the message I got from your book, "Miles to Go." It spoke to me and really touched my heart. It gave me hope. It made we want to try better in all areas of my life. The way you wrote it, was so easy to understand as if you were my best friend and we were in a great conversation. I thought biographies were boring. The truth is I only wanted your book because I thought the photos would be the best I realize I was totally wrong!

More about how Heather related to Miley's story, links to letters from other students, after the jump.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the citizen journalism category.

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