Surpassing the 135-year mark, the Kane County Chronicle continues its enduring role while nimbly adapting to a changing media landscape.
Its story began in 1881, when Samuel W. Durant founded The Valley Chronicle. In its first issue on May 27, 1881, Durant listed the paper's goals:
"It will stand aloof from personalities, petty neighborhood difficulties and unauthorized gossip," Durant stated. "It will not wage war on its contemporaries, in the interest of any class, political, religious, sectional or otherwise. Its course will be directed with an eye single to the dignified position which journalism should occupy, and in the general interests of the valley and surrounding region."
That commitment has held for 135 years and counting. In 1989, the B.F. Shaw Printing Co. purchased the Chronicle's then four semiweekly papers – those with St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and Elburn nameplates – from the Paschal family, which had owned the Chronicle since 1903.
J. Tom Shaw, former Chronicle publisher and now vice president of Shaw Media, is the sixth generation of the Shaw family to help run their newspaper company. In 1990, the local paper's name was changed to Kane County Chronicle. In 2012, the Tri-Cities chain of The Republican newspapers was acquired and later merged into the Chronicle, which in 2016 saw the acquisition of the Elburn Herald and Sugar Grove Herald.
"The Kane County Chronicle serves the Tri-Cities and western Kane County better than any other source of news and information," Shaw said. "If you want to read about your hometown online, we are there for you. If you want to get your news through social media, we've got you. If you want to know about upcoming events, or how your local government is spending your tax dollars, the Kane County Chronicle is there for you. We love our communities, and have partnered with civic leaders on numerous projects over the decades to make our communities great places to live."
Shaw said the Chronicle also focuses harder than ever to help preserve local small businesses.
"The majority of our business partners are small independents, and we are committed to helping our partners keep traffic walking in their doors," he said. "Our audience shops local, and we do, too. After all, what is a great place to live without a vibrant downtown filled with shops and restaurants? From the Riverwalk in Batavia, to Third Street in Geneva, to Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles, we serve a truly unique and wonderful area. We provide marketing solutions that help our small business community thrive and grow."
As technology evolves at an accelerating pace, so has the Chronicle.
"Digital media has given us the opportunity to reach a bigger audience than ever before," Shaw said. "In addition to our printed newspaper and magazines, we interact with the residents of Kane County through our website, through our online newspaper, through email, text alerts, Facebook, Twitter, video and Instagram.
"For marketing, we have a robust portfolio of solutions for our business partners, including website design, social media management and content generation," he said. "While the entire Shaw Media company is focused on … audience growth, the Kane County market is far and away the leader in our digital initiatives. This is a result of two factors. We have an incredible team in Kane County, and we serve an incredible market."
Chris Cudworth, a former staffer, said he found his tenure at the Chronicle invaluable training for his position as Batavia's chief information officer and director of Freedom of Information Act requests. At the Chronicle, Cudworth was promotions and creative services manager, interacting with the Tri-Cities and Elburn communities and their leadership. He also contributed articles ranging from the arts to the environment and sports.
He said the experience dovetails with his current role in keeping the public factually informed on the actions and decisions of the city of Batavia, and in engaging the community.
"I can think of no better preparation than working at the community newspaper that still covers these issues," Cudworth said. "In fact, I have weekly interaction with reporters … and try to be the best assistant I can in helping these journalists gather the facts, information and contacts needed to report objectively and truthfully on issues of civic and social importance."
Part of the Chronicle's identity is to nurture the well-being of the towns it covers, and it long has partnered with nonprofit agencies and organizations committed to the greater good.
"I think that it is more important than ever for a local newspaper to serve as a community advocate," Kane County Chronicle General Manager Ryan Wells said. "That's why I'm so proud to be part of the team at the Kane County Chronicle, because we understand that our underlying mission is to help strengthen the connections within our communities."
And helping fulfill that responsibility is Kane County Chronicle Editor Kathy Balcazar.
"It's important for a community to have a newspaper – or an online presence – so people can be informed about the area in which they live," Balcazar said. "For those who want news every day, we have our website, which we treat as a daily news product. Our print product comes out on Thursdays, and it's great for those who still love the feel of a newspaper in their hands."
Balcazar became editor of the Kane County Chronicle in 2011, previously serving as editor of the Lake County Journal, also a Shaw publication, for three years.
"With technology changing, it's great that we have a tremendous focus on digital," she said. "Social media is one way that many people stay up to date on what is happening in their community, and for the Kane County Chronicle, I think it's important that we have a presence on social media so our news is front and center for those who are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram."
Looking ahead, Balcazar said her goal is to keep telling the stories that are important to residents in the community.
"We can do that by sticking to traditional journalism," she said, "but also by taking advantage of technological advancements, and – as always – being as responsive as possible to requests from our readers."