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Down Route 66: A new start

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Tom Wray Editor, Illinois Eagle

Starting something is always tough. How do you start it? Where to begin?

In this case, it’s starting with a move. Since starting the Eagle, I’ve been living in Chicago. That does make it hard to cover the rest of the state (it is a loooooong drive from Chicago to southern Illinois) but I do love the city. It’s felt like home since my first visit in 1997. There’s just something about the personality and energy of the city that connected with me.

But now I’m leaving Chicago and moving to Springfield.

The biggest reason is personal. My husband and I lived in this city for ten years. It’s where we met and where we spent the longest part of our time. The fact that we found each other here is reason enough for me to love this city. But that also means everywhere I go here can be a painful reminder of loss. I’ve had a breakdown while stopped at an intersection that had the White Castle we’d go to after hitting the bars. I have those reminders getting groceries, getting a haircut and going to the laundromat. It makes it much harder to move forward.

There are other reasons. Near the top of the list is the fact that it will make it easier for the Eagle to be a true voice for the people outside of Chicago. Like I said, I love Chicago. But it and its LGBTQ community do dominate the conversation when it comes to LGBTQ and social justice, simply because of the population imbalance. Which makes sense. However, the rest of the state does need its voice heard as well. I want the Eagle to help amplify that voice.

Being based in Springfield, near the geographic center of the state, will make it easier to get to at least 80% of the state than it was from Chicago. Decatur is about a 20 minute drive. Peoria will be 45 minutes away, instead of two hours. Carbondale will be two and a half hours instead of a seven-hour journey.

Also, being in the state capital, it can give better and quicker access to the state government when events that affect the statewide LGBTQ community take place. My new home is less than a mile from the capitol, making a trip to assembly sessions a quick drive instead of a huge event. I am hoping to have the Eagle apply for press credentials at the state capitol soon after the move.

This also means updates through the next couple of weeks are going to be a bit erratic. I’m still doing my day job while also packing up my entire life, including the Eagle office and then setting up broadband and a new office and getting things unpacked enough that I can actually find things for day to day life. I will continue to post links on our Facebook and Twitter feeds when I can. Just bear with me during the transition.

Afterwards, the Eagle will start to really expand its coverage from the new base in Springfield. I’ve started reaching out to hyperlocals that touch on the LGBTQ community and I’m working on getting columnists that can write about our past, present and future. I also hope to visit communities across the state and find people who are willing to report on what their local communities are doing and where we’re going. Other plans include livestreamed paneled discussions and other efforts to raise our voice and solidify our community. And I plan to be doing this column, Down Route 66, on a regular basis.

This is a new start. It’s gonna be bumpy for just a little bit, but then we’re gonna grow and show that we are truly everywhere.

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