Another Farren takes reins at IPA
Kathy Farren said she realized the value of the Illinois Press Association when she attended her first convention more than 30 years ago. This month, she made history as the first spouse of an IPA past president to also serve as president.
She and her husband Jeff own the Kendall County Record in Yorkville along with the Oswego Ledger Sentinel, Plano Record and Sandwich Record.
The couple had been married for just two years when they bought Jeff’s hometown newspaper in Yorkville. Less than two weeks later, they attended their first IPA convention.
“I told Jeff he was crazy,” Farren recalled. “We were working 12- and 13-hour days, using borrowed typesetting and trying to set up a billing system.” But a photo Jeff had shot had placed in the IPA’s news-editorial contest, and he insisted that they go, she said.
Standing in line for the buffet lunch, the couple met Dan Terry, who was publisher of the Tri-County Press in Polo at the time. “He gave us a great idea for our mail room, and it saved us a lot of money,” Farren said. She said she always comes away from IPA conventions with moneymaking or moneysaving ideas her newspapers can use.
The Farrens quickly became friends with other newspaper people who would mentor them for years to come — people like Bob and Marion Best in Sullivan, Jim Roberts in Fairbury, the Jones family in Virden, Joe Ferstl in Chicago and Tom Phillips in Pana. Anytime the Farrens had a question, they knew they could call on the others for answers, Kathy Farren explained.
She even shared equipment with the Bests. Since both newspapers used King presses, they shared a packing gauge. A Sullivan News•Progress editor had family in Aurora and toted the gauge back and forth dozens of times, Farren said.
She said she hopes to try to instill that attitude in others during her year as president of the Association. “It’s a great opportunity for networking. I wish more people would take advantage of that,” she said.
“We’re rethinking our conventions,” Farren said in regard to her goals for the IPA. “We’re really almost starting from scratch. We want to offer what members want.” As an extension of that, she said the IPA board will also be looking at ways to improve the two contests the IPA offers.
She said she will continue to place a premium on the IPA’s legislative efforts in accordance with strategic planning goals approved by the board in December. Like her predecessor, Carter Newton, Farren said she wants to involve board members more in “working for the IPA.”
She noted that there has been a lot of turnover on the IPA board, mostly due to corporate transfers and consolidations. With today’s corporate structures and the strained economy, it’s more difficult for board members today, she said.
“I think the board set the agenda pretty clearly at our strategic planning session,” Farren said. She enumerated board goals:
• Continue its leadership in government relations.
• Continue to provide quality advice to members on issues involving Open Meetings and Freedom of Information.
• Remain financially viable, increasing board involvement with existing advertising committees and exploring new revenue streams.
• Examine educational service, conventions and contests to more effectively serve members.
• Seek ways to develop strong working relationships with members.
“This is the most challenging year for the newspaper industry I’ve ever seen,” Farren said. “It’s not going to get easier.” But that makes the role of the Association even more important, she indicated.
She was quick to add that she is optimistic about the future of newspapers. The college press has “some really, really good journalism,” she said after helping judge a recent contest. She said she was surprised at how good it was and noted that there are still a lot of young people seeking careers in print journalism.
Back in the day
Farren grew up in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood while her husband is a Yorkville native. Jeff started working at the local newspaper when it was still in the Marshall family.
John Marshall founded the newspaper in 1864, and his family operated it for three generations. It is one of the few newspapers in the state that has not had its name changed through a merger.
Howard Pinc bought the newspaper about the time Jeff was graduating from high school. Jeff then attended Southern Illinois University but transferred after his freshman year to Northern Illinois University at DeKalb. That’s where he and Kathy met.
While Jeff had been editor of his high school yearbook, he worked on the production side of newspapers and studied print management. His minor was in business. He worked summers at the Yorkville newspaper where his mother also had worked. Following college, he worked for a year for The Beacon News in Aurora.
He made his way back to Yorkville while Kathy, a year behind him in school, finished her education.
“I wouldn’t be in this profession if it wasn’t for Sister Mary Laurencita,” she said. The 80-year-old high school grammar and literature teacher had a dour personality, Farren explained. So Kathy opted out of those classes in favor of journalism and literature “with the smiling, 30-year-old Sister Charlesita. If Sister Laurencita had ever once smiled, I might be a home ec teacher today, which was what my father wanted.”
And she might not have landed in Dr. Don Grubb’s journalism program at NIU. Grubb was instrumental in starting both the Southern Illinois Editorial Association and the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, Farren said. He encouraged students to participate in association functions, and most of the teachers there had professional journalism experience, she said.