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Themes at The Lansing Journal Open House include Information, Trust, Community

Open House
Panel members included (from left) Patricia Muhammad, Ernst Lamothe, Eric Crump, Jennifer Yos, Renae Fentress, Kris O’Connor, and Daisy Herrera. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

LANSING, Ill. (March 13, 2018) – Dozens of people from Lansing and beyond gathered at the Lansing Public Library last Wednesday for The Lansing Journal’s Open House. The night’s main event was a panel of seven people who have interacted with the Journal from different perspectives:

Managing Editor Melanie Jongsma served as the panel moderator.

Open house
“A real community newspaper is an independent source of information,” said Eric Crump, founder of the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Paying attention

One of the main topics the panel discussed was the importance of every community having a newspaper. When Eric Crump moved to the Homewood-Flossmoor area about four years ago, he was shocked to find there was no newspaper serving the community. Crump had previously lived in an area that was home to several smaller towns—one with a population of just 1,500 people—each of which had its own paper.

Open House
Jennifer Yos peruses the newest issue before taking her place on the panel. An enthusiastic reader of The Lansing Journal, she expressed appreciation for news that is unbiased yet positive. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

“There’s lots of information out there, but the difference is, a real community newspaper is an independent source of information,” Crump said. “The newspaper’s job is to pay attention to a whole community, pay attention to all sides of issues, pay attention to people whose stories aren’t otherwise told or given any attention. Then you’ve got a real resource for your community.”

Reaching people

The value of a local newspaper was also recognized by Ernst Lamothe, who works with both The Lansing Journal and Thornton Township (the largest township in Illinois, comprising over 17 different villages and towns). Lamothe explained that Thornton Township hosts many events and provides free services that, when advertised in The Lansing Journal, can reach even more people.

“With Thornton Township being the large organization that it is, it’s really hard to reach everyone in that community,” he explained. “We really want the community to be able to take advantage of our programs. We have so many programs—a lot of our services are free and residents are paying for it with their taxes, and we want to give back to them as well. That’s why once this idea [for a local newspaper] came, we definitely wanted to connect. It’s been a fantastic partnership so far.”

Building trust

Open House
Copies of past issues were available at the Open House, and Micaela Smith was able to grab the issues she had missed before. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

That connection is seen throughout Lansing businesses as well. Kris O’Connor said, “In the [Classy Cuts] salon, a lot of clients love the paper. They talk about it all the time. I’ve lived here my whole life—I’m not telling you how many years that is—but you learn things that you didn’t really know.”

Both O’Connor and Renae Fentress talked about what it was like to be interviewed and published by The Lansing Journal. “The reason I opened Troost, in part,” said Fentress, “is because I love coffee, but also because I really love Lansing. I wanted that to be something that really came across in an interview and in an article. The Lansing Journal, Ashlee [De Wit] specifically, did a phenomenal job of making sure that that was written into it. I loved having someone from the community that I love interview me about the community that I love. It was a lot more personal. Of all the articles, the one from The Lansing Journal is the one that I’m putting in a frame.”

Panelist Patricia Muhammad affirmed that personal connection. As a reporter for The Lansing Journal, she is intentional about connecting with people. “For me, having a connection to the story is vital. I go to a special place when I write. That helps me connect with the story. There’s a special connection that I have with what I’m doing. There’s a connection that I have with those I interview. I believe, overall, that everyone has a story to tell.”

Open House
Daisy Herrera is manager of Three Roosters grocery store. She believes a single newspaper can, with some effort, serve all the communities within the broader Lansing community. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)

Including everyone

Lansing is a diverse community, and Jongsma wants The Lansing Journal to serve the entire community. Daisy Herrera has offered invaluable help in building bridges to Lansing’s Hispanic community. Her grocery store is a distribution point for the Journal, and she encourages Three Roosters customers to grab a copy. “I tell them, ‘Don’t you want to know what’s happening?’ And then they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s from here? It’s from Lansing?’ Yes!” Herrera believes that cultural and even language differences do not have to keep people separated from each other. It takes some effort, but “Definitely, you can have all of those connections in one paper,” she said.

Inspiring others

During the Q and A session, members of neighboring communities Chicago Heights and Calumet City expressed curiosity about some of the mechanics involved in providing local news every day. Lamothe, Crump, and Jongsma took note of the interest and discussed it briefly after the Open House was over. Though no definite plans have been set, the three would like to encourage others to explore the possibility of starting their own newspapers.

“You may have started a movement,” Jongsma told Crump.

“I hope so,” Crump replied. “Every community deserves a good newspaper.”

Open House
Richard Dust takes a moment to write down a story idea and submit it to The Lansing Journal. (Photo: Ashlee De Wit)
Katie Arvia
Katie Arvia
Katie is a lifelong Lansing native who currently works full-time in marketing while also freelance reporting for The Lansing Journal. In 2015, she graduated with high honors from Saint Xavier University in Chicago with a BA in English, and she plans to pursue a Master's degree in the near future. Her favorite Lansing Journal assignments include coverage of TF South High School's walkout ("Demonstrating the possibilities") and her St. Patrick's Day interview with her grandma ("St. Patrick's Day traditions: reflections of an Irish granddaughter").


  1. Hello, I just started reading The Lansing Journal. I appreciate being informed about what is happening in the community. One article I have enjoyed is the WHY….. chooses to live in Lansing. The recent one of Why Millennials choose and the previous one of why African Americans choose were interesting. I hope you will have one regarding Asians, Asian Indians, Hispanics, Arabs, Africans, White Americans, Muslims, etc. or did I miss those articles?
    Thank you again for a great newspaper.

    • Thanks for your input, Pam! So far the two “Why” articles you mentioned are the only ones we’ve done—”Why Blacks are choosing Lansing” appeared in our February issue, and “Why Millennials…” appeared in March. We do hope to continue the series, and we appreciate the ideas you’ve offered here!

  2. I’m sorry I couldn’t attend your open house, but I had another commitment that night. (I lead a worship service for residents at Tri-State Nursing Home every first Wednesday of the month.) But I am glad to see some of the responses and ideas here. Keep up the good work. Joyce Mulder

    • We would have loved to have you at the Open House, but it sounds like you were doing something more important. Thanks for stopping by our website to express your appreciation and encouragement. 🙂

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