Evanston's Bob Seidenberg is a 64 year-old, 30-year veteran reporter for The Evanston Review. Been with the paper since the mid-80s, soon after graduating from Northwestern. Began his journalism career with the Pioneer Press.
Witnessed the paper's ownership change hands from Time Inc. to Marshall Field's to The Sun Times to Tribune Publishing, now called "tronc".
What Seidenberg never saw coming was the scant, 10 minute discussion about his transfer from his beloved hometown. Later this month, he's slated to cover Franklin Park and the western suburbs, areas with which he has no experience or familiarity.
"I just hate being in this position," Seidenberg said via telephone tonight, freshly emerged from a board meeting at the Evanston Public Library at 9pm. "It's really discouraging. Reporters don't make that much money, and we really care about our jobs...about communicating news to our communities."
The controversy over Seidenberg's reassignment is just coming out,. It remains unclear why such an abrupt decision was made to pull the beloved mainstay out of the community he's covered with such passion.
What IS clear is his community's deep support.
Comments all over social media evidence outrage -- and outright support -- for the tenacious little guy in the very distinct hat:
"With a Masters Degree from Northwestern's Medill School of Journaism, Bob's been wearing his trademark old school reporter fedora around Evanston while writing for the Evanston Review since the beginning of time."
"Like Feder and others, he was trounced. He'll be used as an example for others who consider such "criminal activity" as withholding their names from a story butchered by an editor."
"I've seen him around town and at the civic center. His transfer is a loss for Evanston."
"Nobody knows, or covers, Evanston like Bob. Shame on the Tribune for moving him."
"Yup. Pretty much a reason to cancel my online subscription. Seidenberg's stuff was the only news that had any integrity. I guess I'll just have to look elsewhere for news."
"Bullshit, Pioneer. I know retaliation when I see it, and that's what you did to him. He will prevail in any grievance, so save the money and put him back in Evanston."
"Bob is an excellent reporter. He was a key reason for people to purchase the Review."
"An extraordinary institutional memory, unmatched sources, a deep and abiding respect for the work and a big heart. He's in there every day telling the stories we need to read. He's old school in the absolute best possible way. As an Evanstonian, a NU alum and former faculty member, a parent, and a journalist, I'm grateful to Bob for his dedication and his diligence."
Of Evanston, Seidenberg says, "It's a complex city, but the people here make me want to be a better reporter. I was actually stopped on the street by someone I've criticized in my reporting for campaign contribution issues, who said to me today, 'Stick in there, Bob.'"
Seidenberg conceded that it hasn't been easy dealing with management, "even if it's a contractual right or an absurd policy one of [the] editors was putting in place - like mandating no non-meeting stories in Evanston from Friday afternoon through Tuesday. In arguably Pioneer's newsiest paper."
He cites what he describes as management's "little feel for community journalism, other than a high hit story that may win points with superiors."
"The unbelievably sad point of this," Seidenberg says, "is that the Trib allows this. We were excited when they bought us and thought our knowledge of issues and deep sources would be regarded an asset rather than the hit-and-run journalism the Trib was accused of covering the suburbs. Sadly that has not been the case."
Was there strategy behind management's move?
"They are pulling me on the eve of the start of Evanston's most transformative election in decades. And I bet that never crossed their minds."
Still, Seidenberg says, "It's been like It's A Wonderful Life these past few days. Everyone's stopping me on the street."
If management had an epiphany, and offered to put Seidenberg back on the Evanston beat, would he accept?
"I'd love nothing more than to stay," Seidenberg says. "Look. I learn so much from the stories I write. The experience is incredible. I love trying to bring more people into these stories."
Bob Seidenberg, your passion for community journalism in Evanston will be dearly missed. #bringbobback
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