The saying goes: “To communicate the truths of history is an act of hope for the future.” And for the past 17 years, the people of Peoria and the Central Illinois community have been the beneficiaries of that hope.
Nowadays, our national news cycles seem relentless, ever-present, and exhausting. We get a rolling cell phone notification that is quickly swiped off-screen without a thought, and we’ve developed a culture of preference for the receipt of information through entertainment.
Despite this, however, hope remains. And that hope rests in the work of our local news reporters—reporters whose work indisputably erects the pillars upon which entertainment news’ ability to even exist rests. Indeed, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, and many others admit as much in every one of their shows when they cite to their sources: local news.
Notably, local news in Peoria is not your standard smalltown reporting. On the contrary, since the 1880s, “Will it play in Peoria?” has been the motto of politicians, corporations, and entertainers alike. Don’t believe me? Research it, and you will see: Peoria is a crossroads of America—a hub of innovation, political thought, and corporate/consumer testing for more than a century.
Lucky for us, for the last 17 years at the Peoria Journal Star, we’ve had one of the best championing us, asking the tough questions, seeking truth, and documenting it all for us with so much depth and enthusiasm that only a true historian and believer in Peoria could do it such justice: Chris Kaergard.
Chris loves Peoria and Central Illinois more than anyone I know. That’s been evident in every word he’s put to paper over the last two decades; in that beard (oh lord, that beard) that he grew to bring national attention to local budget issues; in his deep-dive investigative elections coverage; in his heartfelt editorials; and, near and dear to me, in the near-decade he’s ushered The Bradley Scout kids into the world of journalism and beyond.
Few people will manage to have the impact on Peoria (and its people) the way Chris has. So, instead of posting to social media to tell the world of what Chris has meant to Peoria and to the Scouters, I instead take to the medium that he has championed for so long to say this:
Chris, you’ve brilliantly communicated the truths of history. You’ve constantly inspired us—your budding newspaper students—to do the same. And now, we celebrate you as you begin your next chapter at The Dirksen Congressional Center, where we have no doubts that you’ll continue to champion history, the written word, and future generations of historians and writers to come.
It is time for the next generation of Chris Kaergards to step up to the world of news reporting. But until then, I express my gratitude for your work and incredible impact on the Central Illinois community through your time at the Peoria Journal Star. Your name across the byline will be missed, but your 17 years of “act[s] of hope for the future” will remain a part of Peoria’s history forever.
Former Editor-in-Chief, Class of 2015