Oak Park is chock full of reporters, current and former. Beyond Wednesday Journal, the village has scores of journalists who contribute or have contributed to such venerable media outlets as the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, the Wall Street Journal, WBEZ and NBC 5.
Among the ranks is nine-year-old Julia Preston. Perhaps Oak Park’s youngest journalist, Preston is the founder, editor-in-chief and principal reporter of the Woodbine Times, which she also self-publishes.
“I consider it a bit of a job,” said Preston.
A student at Horace Mann School, Preston named her newspaper after Woodbine Avenue, the street where she lives. She was inspired to begin the monthly periodical back in May after her cat Boris got himself stuck in the treehouse in her backyard and had to be rescued by Preston’s dad.
Ever since then, Preston has been chronicling Boris’s adventures in the Woodbine Times, regaling her readers with the cat’s antics.
“That’s become a bit of a department,” said Preston.
Preston also reports on local happenings in her neighborhood. In last month’s issue, Preston wrote about her neighborhood’s participation in the Dec. 19 luminary night. Aptly headlined, “Lighting the Way,” the story described how the event brought people safely together during the pandemic.
“I thought it was a really cool thing to write about not really just because of the luminaries but because of what a social event they created,” Preston said.
The Woodbine Times contributors include Preston’s cousins, aunts and her grandfather, who penned the recent story, “Papa on Space.” Her mom helps out with editing duties too. In the new “Ask Julia” section, Preston answers questions submitted from readers.
All back issues of the paper are saved in Preston’s personal archives.
Outside of her work with the Woodbine Times, Preston is an avid reader, who enjoys the mystery genre, especially the Hardy Boys books. Investigating mysteries, Preston believes, isn’t a far cry from journalism.
“You kind of have to do a bit of investigating to be a regular journalist and at least just keep your eye out for interesting things that could turn into news,” Preston said.
Currently, she is working on the January issue of Woodbine Times, which will, of course, feature Boris, as well as a list of tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions.
The list of Woodbine Times subscribers consists of Preston’s friends and family, but Preston is considering widening the newspaper’s reach.
“I’m thinking that I might end up continuing the Woodbine Times for a really long time and making it bigger than just my family and friends,” Preston said.
In starting her own newspaper, Preston realized that some people don’t recognize the names of the people who report the news or understand the work that goes into reporting. Both things, Preston feels, are important to know.
“People should know that because then they’ll probably appreciate the news more.”