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Bill Jones, Editor
8:47 pm CDT March 30, 2020

“The People behind the Papers” is a Q&A series featuring the employees of 22nd Century Media who play an integral role in producing 15 community newspapers. The project is designed to give readers an inside look at the personalities that drive the journalism you have read weekly in print and daily on our websites. To support the work we do, please consider subscribing at or through any of our other 14 newspapers.

What do you do at 22nd Century Media?

I’m the managing editor of our North Shore branch and editor of The Wilmette Beacon. On one hand, I manage a group of super-talented journalists. On the other, I live, eat and breathe Wilmette, Kenilworth and the local communities. 

What does your job at 22nd Century Media mean to you?

It means a ton. I’ve been in the journalism business for 20 years this year. As a news hound, I’m constantly interested in what’s going on in the North Shore and how it affects our readers/residents. I would feel empty without journalism. I’ve tried other things a few times during my employment career, including politics and teaching, but always came back to my passion: being a journalist, reporter, editor, and everything and anything that goes with it. 

What is the most memorable story you've written during your time here?

This is a difficult question, as there have been so many. I guess I’ll go with one I won a National Newspaper Association award for, not because of that accomplishment, though that was nice. I spoke with Wilmette native Jeffrey Meek, who earned a Purple Heart from his military duty in Afghanistan. Because of Meek’s quotes, I was able to paint a clear picture of his war experience in vivid detail for readers. Hearing a hero talk about how he escaped death really moved me. I had considered joining the military during the first Gulf War but didn’t end up having the guts to do it.

What have you learned about the community you cover that you otherwise might not have known?

Obviously, the North Shore is filled with many wealthy and successful residents, including those in Wilmette and Kenilworth. At the same time, there are so many quality human beings that are always looking to help people and make a difference not just in the area, but way beyond. Wilmette and Kenilworth are beautiful places to live, but I think it’s more because of the people than anything.

What do you like to do for fun when you're not working?

I’m equally a cinephile, sports fanatic and music connoisseur. I also enjoy video games, much to the dismay of my wife, as she says I’m too old for that. Speaking of my wife, our greatest joy for the last 3-plus years has been raising our wonderful son, Gavin. We’re having so much fun being parents, so that “job” tops the list. 

What's one thing even your co-workers probably don't know about you?

I’m a pretty open book and have been known to tell the same stories on repeat, annoying the newsroom and my co-workers along the way. Assisting Scarlett Johansson with her math homework, interviewing O.J. Simpson at the Kentucky Derby and serving breakfast to Donald Trump are all funny celebrity stories my team has heard countless times. I’m not sure my co-workers know that I was this close to becoming a police officer before getting into journalism. I have a cousin, since retired, who was a longtime police officer and he was going to hook me up. But an English class and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” changed everything.

What is your perfect work lunch situation?

I feel like I get to have my perfect work lunch situation every day. I don’t like eating at my desk, because I’ll just work, so I go into the conference room, close the door and just get away from everything for a bit. If the weather is cooperating, I follow that up with a walk outside, blasting some tunes and pretending I’m starring in my own music video. That last part is alarming and a possible cry for help.

How are you riding out this COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s been a tough adjustment, as both my wife and I have been working from home for several weeks. Add in that our son’s daycare is closed and it’s been difficult at times, but also fun, as Gavin is a blast. Because of some health concerns, I don’t even go to the grocery store, so except for a little fresh air in our yard, I’ve been pretty much stuck indoors. It’s OK, though, as I know we’ll get through this, eventually. Everyone is going through some variation of the theme.

Anything else you want people to know?

I just want every member of the 22nd Century Media team to know how proud I am of the work we’re all collectively doing. I think it’s so important, not just at this time, but always. I also want readers to know that we all love what we’re doing and appreciate telling all the great stories you’ve been providing us since the inception of the company in 2005. We look forward to continuing this partnership with the readers and residents long after the pandemic is over.