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Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIt's here! The newly-designed Courier-News website,! (It's also accessible by the less 1990s-esque address,

new couriernews website.JPG

You also can access the new website from your smartphone at

Sun-Times Media West Editorial Director Mike Cetera shares his thoughts about the redesign in today's paper. But we want to hear from you.

What do you think of the new website? What do you like or dislike? Is there anything else you would like to see? Share your thoughts here on Between the Bylines!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgI was in trigonometry my senior year of high school when the first plane hit the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. At a Lutheran high school in Springfield, Ill. About as far removed from downtown Manhattan as you can get.

I know, because I spent the next five Sept. 11's in New York City; two, living in a dorm building blocks from the World Trade Center. I woke up in those mornings to the sound of the names of those lost in the terrorist attacks being read aloud, echoing across a quiet and somber Financial District. I spent disquieting nights watching police place barricades and flares in the street in front of my dorm after plans for a terrorist car bombing in the area were uncovered. I made friends who had lived in that dorm when debris from the burning, falling towers rained on the area, who had spent their first-period high school classes watching the smoke rise in the distance and desperately trying to get ahold of family members, who had been first responders to the scene and still struggle emotionally and physically. I always felt like New Yorkers were a little nicer on the anniversary of that day; You never knew what someone else was going through.

I was supposed to fly to New York the day or two after the attacks for a college open house at New York University. Flights were grounded, and well-meaning friends were sure this meant I shouldn't make the cross-country move to a city of ruins. But I caught a later open house. I graduated cum laude from NYU.

But this day isn't about me.

Some of the best Sept. 11 remembrances I've read today have come from some of our own at The Courier-News.

Community News Editor Julia Doyle tweeted: "This day isn't about me & where I was. It isn't about Qurans. It's about the 2,977 people killed in NYC, Va. & Pa. for being Americans."

And Reporter Mike Danahey posted on Facebook: "Enjoy a day, and be nice to people who are different from you."

So let's do that. Let's remember the families who have been separated, both by the attacks and by the wars that followed. Let's remember those we lost in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and those who still are affected in the aftermath. That's who this day is about. Let's also remember the day when headlines on different newspapers, from different countries, from people who are different from "us," read, "We are all Americans." And let's be nice to people who are different. Because we are all Americans.

Take a moment to share your memories of Sept. 11, 2001, here. And then let's enjoy a day.

-- Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIt's over.

Not because giant fiberglass humanoids are menacing America's highways. I'm talking about summer. Just as Memorial Day is its unofficial beginning, Labor Day is its unofficial end, and the holiday weekend is fast approaching.

Although, giant fiberglass humanoids ARE menacing America's highways -- many, not all that far from the Elgin area. They're kitschy, oversized pop sculptures, once part of a nationwide fad, now part of a disappearing (or disentigrating) breed called "Muffler Men."

The Elgin area's one example, a Streamwood tire-barn cowboy named "Big Ben," rode off to that great roundup in the sky 10 years ago this fall. Reporter Dave Gathman wrote about Ben and his remaining (albeit wooden) counterparts, The Pained Minuteman and 10-foot wooden Santa and Snowman, earlier this summer.

Now that summer -- or, as I like to think of it, Road Trip Season -- is coming to an end, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the Muffler Men, et al, perhaps even in person. We at The Courier-News haven't verified that all these guys are around (other than our wooden locals), but if if you're feeling brave, or just not ready to say goodbye to summer, you can take one last day trip to go Muffler Man-spotting, not that far from Elgin. And send us pictures, please!

View Muffler Men Day Trip in a larger map

Learn more about Muffler Men from And have a happy Labor Day!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

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.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgCommunity Unit School District 300 students head back to class today, earlier than ever.

And the Carpentersville-based school district knows its teachers, its administrators, its custodians -- and its communities -- will be doing more with less this school year. That's the message behind the district's first "Superintendent's 'Welcome Back'" video, posted on late last week...

As The Courier-News' education reporter, I'll be out at the schools all day today with reporter Katie Anderson -- and all year. I want to hear your stories about doing more with less, about your concerns over the state budget's impact on the district, about your students' accomplishments. Send me your back to school photos, tell me your stories, here on Between the Bylines, at or at 847-888-7773.

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgHere at The Courier-News, we like to think of ourselves as "The Newspaper of Record for Faeries and other Magickal Peoples since 1874."

OK, maybe not, but between Readers' Reporter Emily McFarlan's 5 Questions with a fairy costumer, freelance writer Janelle Walker's coverage of the event and staff writer Mike Danahey gonzo festival crashing, we assembled a formidable team to cover South Elgin's World of Faeries Festival this past weekend.

Here are Emily and Janelle's articles...

And Danahey's photos from his magickal adventures...

The Courier-News' South Elgin World of Faeries Festival 8/7/10 photoset The Courier-News' South Elgin World of Faeries Festival 8/7/10 photoset

Did you attend the World of Faeries Festival? Share your summer festival-going stories here!

--Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgReady... Set... SOUND OFF!

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a bill that would that would have brought up to an estimated $22 million to Elgin School District U46 in the new school year. Even if that bill had passed, the state of Illinois still owes U46 about $24 million for the 2009-2010 school year.

In Community Unit School District 300, officials are estimating the just-started 2010-2011 school year could end with as much as a $11 million deficit. That state owes the Carpentersville-based district about $12 million for the last school year.

Both districts have made cuts to their budgets for the current school year to make up for that funding gap, slashing teachers, transportation and some programs. (Read more recent news on The Courier-News' "Schools" page.)

Here's your chance to sound off. Open season. Do you agree with the cuts that have been made? Disagree? How have you or your children been affected? Share your thoughts on the state's school funding crisis here.

--Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgYou know the summer road construction is getting ridiculous when the DETOUR GETS DETOURED.

That's what's happened in Bartlett: Traffic has been detoured to Illinois Route 59 during construction on Dunham Road. But Route 59 will close Monday, Aug. 9, as staff writer Dave Gathman reported in today's story "Bad Timing: Route 59 to close before Dunham reopens."

But don't worry: Our Web team is here to help. They've put together a Google map of the construction zone you can use to plot your own detours:

View Bad timing for Elgin-Bartlett commuters in a larger map

Share your traffic horror stories here. And get more news on construction, closures, commuting and more on Sun-Times Media West's "On the Move" blog!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIt's down to two in the city of Greensboro, N.C.

Two finalists to become the next police chief of Greensboro, that is. And one of them is former Elgin Police Chief Lisa Womack.

Previously, Womack was one of 11 in the running to become police chief of Seattle, Wash., in late April, as we reported then in The Courier-News' Friday Pulse column. She had retired from the Elgin Police Department on April 1.

The Greensboro News & Record's The Crime Scene blog posted a roundup of miscellany about our former top cop yesterday. In an entry titled "Police Chief Finalists Miscellany," public safety and criminal justice reporter/blogger Ryan Seals wrote...

We spent much of the day Monday digging into the history of Ken Miller and Lisa Womack, the two finalists to become the next police chief for the city of Greensboro.

We played phone tag much of the day, but did get a lot of useful information on both candidates, but were never able to get to the heart of the glaring question that stands out thus far:

What prompted Lisa Womack to resign from her post as the police chief in Elgin Ill.?

Maybe we can help answer that question, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgYes, we know the city of Elgin is rehabbing its oldest home at 302 W. Chicago St. through the sale of other Resident Officer Program of Elgin homes, grants, donations, sponsorships from companies and its share of casino money. And that will not only preserve the home, but also allow the city to demonstrate how to make such historic homes energy efficient.

Oldest Home in Elgin 001.jpgBut $675,000 still is a jaw-dropping number.

To wrap our minds around that number, The Courier-News launched another newsroom-wide effort to look into just what that much money will buy you.

  • Since the city of Elgin canceled its fireworks this year for budgetary reasons, staff writer Gloria Carr made a call to Mad Bomber Fireworks Productions in Elgin, ran the numbers and concluded the city could sponsor Fourth of July fireworks for 33 years with that much money.
  • Staff writer Katie Anderson looked up the cost of the 2009 Aston Martin DB9 -- better known as the James Bond car. That car runs about $200,000, meaning the city could buy at least three. And, she pointed out, think what the city could do with all those James Bond cars!
  • You could ensure you -- and generations to come -- are well informed on what's happening in your hometown by subscribing to The Courier-News for the next 2,800 YEARS.

What kind of house costs $675K, after the jump.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Emily McFarlan category.

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