Naperville’s Nichols Library hosts journalism discussion with Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra's book "Beacons in the Darkness: Hope and Transformation Among America’s Community Newspapers"
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On Wednesday, award-winning Chicago-based author and journalist Dave Hoekstra spoke about the importance of local journalism in a panel discussion at Nichols Library.

Hoekstra released a book on the topic, “Beacons in the Darkness: Hope and Transformation Among America’s Community Newspapers” back in October 2022.

Reuniting with Naperville Central classmates 50 years later

Hoekstra was joined by longtime reporters Donna DeFalco and Steve Lord. The trio wrote for the Naperville Central High School newspaper before starting their reporting careers. They all graduated in 1973.

The advisor of their school paper, Dr. Marilyn Hollman, also participated in the panel.

“It really meant a lot to me on the 50-year anniversary to have the school newspaper together,” said Hoekstra. “And as we said in the panel, Dr. (Marilyn) Hollman was just so great for us. She really gave us the confidence to find our voices and to believe in our voices.”

The panel covered a variety of topics, such as the role social media plays in the modern news cycle, reporters accruing sources for stories, and the importance local papers play in their communities.

Hoeksta’s new release

In “Beacons in the Darkness: Hope and Transformation Among America’s Community Newspapers,” Hoekstra took a deep dive into community newspapers around the country, from Hillsboro, Illinois, to Charleston, South Carolina, to Marfa Texas. He spoke with some of the staff at the papers about buyouts, fake news, and declining revenues.

“This is not an ode to the end of the newspaper world, you’ve got to think outside the box,” said Hoekstra. “There’s a young couple from Brooklyn and they come and buy this paper in Marfa, Texas. Who does that? But they buy it, and open up a gift shop, a coffee shop, and then the people go have coffee and talk to the editors. So if you really think outside the box, I think there’s hope stuff can happen in the future.”

Dr. Hollman was complimentary of Hoekstra’s latest work.

“There have been a few other articles about newspapers dying, but nothing that’s comprehensive like (Hoekstra) does,” said Hollman. “He has things from all over the country.”

Hoekstra said that a cornerstone of his book is, “To understand a community newspaper, you need to understand the community.” At the conclusion of the panel, he read a passage from the book.

“Community journalism is reporting in an honest, fair, and open manner about the events that happen in your world,” said Hoekstra. “If you do that, that’s how communities drive and go.”

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