Bill Smith, the founder and publisher of EvanstonNow, would never write this article, deeming it un-newsworthy, but we disagree. Last night, Bill was recognized at the 13th annual Evanston MashUp, produced by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, as the Corrine Passage Spirit of Evanston Award winner.
This is a notable award given each year to an Evanstonian who embodies values, such as courage, vision, compassion, resourcefulness, connectivity, and entrepreneurship. In years past, it’s gone to an Evanstonian who donated his kidney to a clerk at the Jewel Osco and a family that took in Ukranian refugees who evacuated soon after the war.
In the case of Bill, the committee heralded his integrity, professionalism, grit, and persistence to start a hyperlocal newspaper at a time when most communities were losing their local papers.
We remember when Bill Smith started Evanston Now. For anyone at the 2006 Fountain Square Art Festival in downtown Evanston, you might have seen his creative advertising. As a native of Evanston, who subsequently went to the Medill School at Northwestern to get a journalism degree, Bill knew that the way to get Evanstonians attention was through yard signs. He purchased dozens and placed them on the outskirts of the Festival.
Curious, we went to his website to find a nascent news organization. Since then, as the readers of EvanstonNow know, Bill has singlehandedly, through sweat, hard work, and persistence, covered the news of Evanston producing 2-4 articles a day typically. All in a time when newspapers are producing less and less content.
Bill didn’t undertake this endeavor to get rich. In fact, it’s fair to assume he subsidized this endeavor during the lean, early years. Rather, he undertook it because he loves journalism, loves Evanston, and knows that an informed community is a healthy community. We’re certain he’s been bullied and threatened, told that he’s a half-rate journalist, and received, no doubt, emails intended to intimidate. Yet, through it all, he’s continued to deliver timely, independent, high-quality news to thousands of Evanstonians who want to stay informed.
So, thank you Bill Smith for keeping us informed, for presenting the news in a fair and impartial manner, and for persisting at a time when there is more and more noise and less and less attention. We’re renewing our subscription to EvanstonNow and hope thousands of others will do the same. We deserve multiple strong local news sources in Evanston and are appreciative every day that you and your team are curating and covering what’s important in Evanston.
— Steve Hagerty, business owner and former Evanston mayor
— Cheryl Judice Powell, owner of Hecky’s Barbecue
— Don Wilson, attorney and former 4th Ward alderman