by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Following the background stories of The Rockford Squire’s Publisher Roger Allen and Managing Editor Beth Altena, we, Cliff and Nancy Hill, have been asked to reintroduce ourselves to the paper’s readership. We welcome the opportunity and, at the same time, will lay to rest a question that is frequently asked us, “Which of you two write your stories?”
First, a little background of who we are and how we came to be contributing reporters for The Rockford Squire:
Nancy is a farm girl born and raised just outside of Howard City, Mich. Academically, she acquired bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Western Michigan University and, at the time of her retirement as a teacher from the Tri-County School System, she was just a few short hours away from a Ph.D. She devoted 32 years to enriching the lives of elementary students in grades kindergarten through third.
Cliff, on the other hand, is a big city boy born and raised in Chicagoland. In pursuit of a business degree at the University of Illinois, he freely admits he left school after two years because he was anxious to get on with his life. What followed were vocational careers in retail supermarket management and the trucking industry, leading to retirement. Somewhat bored in retirement, Cliff went on to spend two five-year stints as a fisheries technician with the Wisconsin DNR and finally as a lab technician with Wolverine World Wide.
Obviously we possess dissimilar personalities, perspectives, values and beliefs due to the differences in our educational and vocational backgrounds in addition to the very different worlds we were born and raised in.
If you already personally know us, then you know that Cliff does not “suffer fools gladly” and loves a good fight, while Nancy, on the other hand, is perfectly willing to “turn the other cheek” and seek an amicable compromise. (Cliff thinks Nancy is probably right.) One strong commonality is that we are both avid readers of books, magazines and especially newspapers.
Enough said about backgrounds. When you meld all of the above and more, the result is the “by Cliff and Nancy Hill” byline. The answer to the question “Who writes the stories?” is: “We—Cliff and Nancy—together write as one voice.”
So it came to pass, shortly after our respective retirements and meeting and marrying, we submitted an article in November 2005 to The Rockford Squire. Managing Editor Beth Altena thought the article so well written and not requiring of any corrections to punctuation or grammar along with no need to be edited that she ran it as submitted. The result was an offer by Beth to join the paper’s staff.
Thus began our improbable avocation as freelance contributing reporters for The Rockford Squire.
From the beginning, we were afforded remarkable freedom as to our storylines. Unique to newspapers, we have been allowed, for the most part, to write in the first person plural, except when we speak of ourselves individually. Ours is not a competition but a collaboration, which is not to say we don’t disagree when we put a story together, at the same time we have agreed to agree before we submit any article.
Since November 2005, we have submitted upwards of 300 articles along with countless pictures for publication, all of which have run have in the newspaper. There were no small stories, though some were bigger than others. Judging from responses of both readers and those we have written about, most have been extremely well received. Local network television news teams have even picked up some stories. (As an aside, we’d like to recognize the extremely professional news team at WZZM-13 who never fail to give on-air attribution to a news source.)
Stories come our way easily. Everyone has a story to tell, some are just more compelling than others. Being avid walkers, we can be seen strolling the streets of every neighborhood, park and industrial area in the City of Rockford—a feat we accomplished in the summer of 2009. Squire readers know and recognize us and, more often than not, stop us with a suggestion for a story they would like to see in the paper. We have found being a reporter literally opens the doors to many lives and events.
Needless to say, all of this has been great fun and, at times, a real ego boost. Who wouldn’t like to see their name on a regular basis under a headline in a newspaper? We have met many great and interesting people deserving of recognition for their achievements no matter how big or small.
As it turns out, our educations have never ended. Being a reporter is an ongoing education in itself, leading us to believe that when one stops writing and reading, one’s learning ceases. We’ve also learned that writing is no easy task and good and accurate reporting is even more difficult and time consuming.
One other question we often hear is, “What’s it like working at The Rockford Squire?” To that we say, “It’s a quirky blast!”
Like most families, the Squire family is a somewhat dysfunctional bunch. We liken its day-to-day operations to the old hit TV sitcom, “WKRP in Cincinnati.” But hey, it works! About to enter its 140th year of continuous publication, Rockford’s oldest established business, The Rockford Squire, sails on stronger than ever. It is, and will forever remain, Rockford’s original hometown newspaper, from the very beginning faithfully chronicling the lives and times of the greater Rockford community.
What other small-town, free, weekly newspaper can boast of regular weekly columns from the likes of meteorologist Craig James, tax-expert extraordinaire Jerry Coon, and curmudgeon publisher and humorist Roger Allen? We, ourselves, are proud to be associated with such a distinguished group of writers and the paper’s ever-talented and supporting staff.
We’ll leave you with a quote by the famous newspaperman Sir Harold Evans that applies to any newsroom of a newspaper, especially the Squire: “A newspaper is an argument on its way to a deadline. If there is no argument, there’s not much of a newspaper!”