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On the street & off the cuff

By Billy O'Keefe

By Drew Kerr
University of Iowa
Photo by Rachael Strecher, Columbia College

Sy Adelman (right), 78, joined SPJ in 1950 as a student at the University of Illinois and subsequently served a quarter-century covering courts and county government for the now obsolete Chicago American. Aldeman, of Hoffman States, Ill., said he’s back to the convention after a 20-year hiatus to catch up with old friends and explore the possibility of writing a book about his reporting experiences. Here are some of Adelman’s thoughts on the profession and the convention:
What was your favorite story to cover?
I covered the 1969 trial against eight Black Panthers who were charged with conspiring to create violence at the Democratic Convention. The government had a colossal headache with that case. They (the defendants) were basically doing street theatre in the courtroom.
If you were to create a session for journalists to attend at this conference what would it be?
I would create a session covering local government and longevity on the beat. I don’t think newspapers keep people around long enough anymore. It goes back to the maxim, ‘Be friends with everybody but keep your ears and eyes open.’ When I worked, I’d get the dirt and then send in another reporter to ask the nosy questions. That’s how you were able to stay friends with everyone and keep getting information.
Which session have you most enjoyed?
I’d like to see if there might be a book to be written about some of my experiences. That’s why I’m learning about freelancing and going to the session “How to Move from Writing Articles to Books.”
What do you think has changed for reporters?
We have severe rules on ethics now. There were times when, well, we didn’t lie, but we did stretch the truth. As a police reporter here, I had an office at the station over on State Street. I’d get sources on the phone and say I was calling from police headquarters and that I needed some information to complete my report. I didn’t mention I was a reporter.
Who are two reporters you admire and would like to meet?
Mike Royko, a former columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, and Walter Spirko, a reporter for the Sun-Times.