Tuesday, Nov. 28, is a renewal of sorts for the Herald & Review sports department.
We’re having a meet-and-greet at the Lincoln Lounge, 121 N. Main St., at 5 p.m. We want to hear from readers about what they want from the H&R sports section, which is planning for a relaunch in 2018 similar to what the rest of the newsroom accomplished in 2017.
Though our staff has 55 years of combined experience at the H&R, in fairness, most of those belong to Executive Sports Editor Mark Tupper, who began at the paper in 1974.
I’ve been here 10 years, though most of the last two years were spent in news, and I’ve been sports editor only since late August.
Sports writer Joey Wagner has been at the H&R since spring, and Matt Flaten began here as a sports clerk in October 2016 before becoming a sports writer in September.
We felt like the Lincoln Lounge would be a great place to start our relaunch because it’s not only a Decatur landmark, but the H&R — and the sports department, in particular — has a rich history there.
When the H&R moved to its current building at 601 E. William St. in 1979, the Lincoln became the favorite hangout for the night shift, which has always included much of the sports staff.
Former owner George Chiligiris — the Chiligiris family started the Lincoln Lounge and ownership is still in the Chiligiris family — used to invite members of the sports staff to dinners at his home regularly.
By the time I arrived at the H&R in 2007, heading over to the Lincoln was still something we’d do on occasion, and we were always received warmly by then-owners Chris and Kostaki Chiligiris. Eventually it became “something we used to do.”
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I’m not saying nightly trips to Lincoln after deadline are suddenly going to become the norm again — I’m married and have a 9-year-old son I have to take to school in the morning — but I like the thought of kicking off something with a nod to our past.
Like the Lincoln, the H&R sports section has a rich history in Decatur. Bob Fallstrom, Forrest Kyle, Rex Spires, Mike Albright, and of course Tupper, are synonymous with thorough, passionate and fair reporting on Illini, high school and community sports.
This meet-and-greet is a chance to interact with one of the journalists who made the section great — the personable, knowledgeable, tireless Tupper you read in the H&R, hear on WSOY and see on WAND is the same in person.
It’s also a chance to get to know Wagner, a relentless worker who has established himself as an outstanding source on area high school sports in a short period of time, and Flaten, an avid sports card collector and world traveler who brings a unique perspective to our staff.
And there’s me — I like to brag about how great I am at H&R Preps Pickem.
That’s us. Now we want to know about you, and in particular what kind of stories and features you want to see in the H&R sports section. We want to know what we’re doing right and what we can improve. And if you have any story ideas, we’d love to hear them.
Your feedback, along with discussions among our staff, will help shape the changes we’re going to make to the sports section.
We hope you can make it to the Lincoln. But if you can’t, we still want to hear from you. My direct line is (217) 421-7909 and email is email@example.com. I’m also on Twitter at @jconnHR.