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The hard copies of life's memories
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 12/28/2009 12:04 AM

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Peer into anyone's scrapbook or collection of important papers and you're likely to see a newspaper clipping or two.

While they may be a bit yellowed, they document an accomplishment or event that had an impact. They are the hard copies of life's memories.

There's something exhilarating about "making it into the paper," whether it's for an event you organized, a touchdown pass you caught, or being singled out in a man-on-the-street interview. It's proof that you have contributed to something larger than yourself.

Records of ancient civilizations show that we humans by nature want to tell others what they've done. Societies for millennia have left their mark through inscriptions on cave walls, papyrus, tablets, even bones.

In our day, it's newspapers - the "first rough draft of history," as former newspaper Publisher Philip Graham put it. Serving as a continuous public diary, newspapers record the events that shape a community.

That community can be a nation, a metro area, a village or a school. In the Daily Herald's case, it includes the many cities and villages that form an arc around Chicago.

From its beginnings as a small weekly, the Herald has documented what matters most to the area's readers. We call ourselves the "voice of the suburbs," but the fact is, we are also a record of the suburbs.

We were there when Arlington Park burned down and Woodfield mall was put up. We documented the horror wrought by John Wayne Gacy. We detailed the tragedy of seven who died on a school bus in Fox River Grove, and dozens more on Flight 191.

We've published legal notices and garden club meetings. We've carried ads for stores and services. Announced births, deaths and weddings. Election results. The police blotter. All of these help tell our suburban story.

It's a role apart from that of the big-city dailies. r, apart from television, radio and most of the blagosphere.

The grand events create a framework, but just as significant are the smaller ones that directly affect us. Who covers the local school board meeting where a new busing policy is discussed? Where can you read about the string of break-ins in the subdivision next to yours? Who provides an account of the latest rally for health care reform?

"Civilization is a stream with banks," philosopher Will Durant wrote. "The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting ... while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks."

Count on a local newspaper to tell that story.