Journalism Teen Club Founder Val Lauder Publishes Book: Preview


 Read an excerpt from The Back Page: The Personal Face of History by Val Lauder

It is a pleasure to look back on what high school journalists have achieved over the years, with particular attention to a group in Chicago I knew and worked with.  Indeed, they are a featured part of the recently published memoir recounting my years at the Chicago Daily News, The Back Page.   – Val Lauder

The Back Page

Through the years I’ve cherished such memories. But the most cherished of them all – except, of course, for the press conference itself – goes back to that Sunday afternoon I came into the office and called around for the students’ reactions to their meeting with the President.

One of the students I called was Peter Langer.  From Roosevelt High School.

His mother said he was not home.  He’d gone to the movies with his sister, but he’d be home later that afternoon.  I told her what I wanted.  She said she’d have him call me when he returned.

I did not tell her that I’d probably be gone by then, that I’d already talked with several students, that I had some good quotes, recollections, all I really needed.  That I’d simply called Peter “just in case.”  Make that extra call.  Don’t think you can’t add something, improve your story.

But, no reason to disappoint her … and I might still be there.

I said that would be fine, although I might have finished and left by then.  She said she’d have him call, in case I was still there.

Rather than signing off at that point, however, she paused.

She said, “I’d like to say something.”

I waited — nothing impatient, to rush her, make her feel she was intruding.

That was a courtesy.  But as the pause lengthened, I sensed something.

The pause, with an audible but unmistakable hesitancy, grew not so much out of her not knowing what she wanted to tell me, but rather out of the fact that she was grappling with something important, something she was finding hard to put into words — an emotion difficult to harness.

“I feel rather proud,” she said, her words coming slowly, showing a distinct accent.

“I feel especially proud because we have not long been in this country.  We came from Austria – Vienna – about six years ago.  It is so different.  You would never have had a chance to see and talk to the President over there, so I’m especially proud.”

She’d found her voice now.

“We are so proud,” she said.

Our son … asked the President of the United States a question … and got an answer.”

No hesitancy now.

“That could never happen in our country,” she said.  “Only in America.

“Only in America.”


The Back Page: The Personal Face of History is available on in paperback $24.95; or Kindle edition $9.99.