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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bud Buckley Wants To Know

So few questions yesterday. I guess that means I have been over sharing and you already know all there is to know about me. This whole thing (ask anything you want to know about Lois) started after Cooter Ang sent me a getting to know you questionnaire in an e-mail. My sister Angie is guilty of sending the same, repeatedly. Maybe those Angie chicks just think alike.

Every once in a while one of my sister's answers are really off the wall. It's her way to see if anyone is paying attention to her. While I read all of the senders answers, I rarely send these surveys back. So that is what prompted this ask Lois segment.

Bud wants to know about my newspaper days. What I liked and didn't and what beats I covered. Although I still freelance for newspapers, I am thrilled to be out of the newsroom on a full time basis.

I started at a small local paper and covered everything from school boards, city government, county government, park boards and community news. There wasn't much crime there to be reported but when it did come up, I covered that too.

In small towns, the newspaper people basically cover everything. I was the editorial department, writing Home Fires plus some local editorial, both once each week. I also designed the newspaper and took photos.

It took four years before burnout took over and my job wasn't my dream anymore. I worked 60 plus hours every week. I wrote 12-15 byline items every week, and I covered a ton of meetings. I think the meetings were what I hated most. Politics.

Being a people person, I was and still am totally into feature stories. Anything about anyone is my favorite thing to cover. One of my hardest but best interviews was with a former Chicago police officer who had moved out in the middle of nowhere after serving 25 years with the Chicago PD. He investigated some of the most high profile cases, including the John Wayne Gacy murders.

When our former governor (George Ryan) tossed out a blanket clemency order for all Illinois death row inmates, I thought, this former Chicagoan would be a good person to ask what he thought. I thought it was a good way to localize a national story.

We sat in the newsroom for five hours one day and two hours the next. He told me some of the most fascinating and disgusting things about his job. He showed me pictures from thousands of crime scenes and explained how evidence was gathered. He brought a suitcase filled with evidence collection tools and showed me how they worked.

He knew there were a couple of bad apples at the PD who may have coerced confessions, but assured me the blanket clemency was a huge mistake. He said had the governor worked each on a case-by-case basis, he would have seen 99% of those on death row, were right where they belonged.

Interviewing him was like watching one of those CSI shows in person. By far the most fascinating interview ever.

Outside of the people stories, I love writing Home Fires. It has always been about the family but it has always been a much more tame version of what you read here. And that's just because newspapers frown upon bad words. Stooopid newspapers.