Carbondale is a university town, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the community supports three independent newspapers in addition to the chain daily newspaper. For niche publishing in Carbondale, there are the “Carbondale Times”, “Nightlife” and “Heartland Women.” Each of the independent newspapers adds its personal flair to news and information in the Carbondale community without ever competing directly with either the campus
newspaper, the “Daily Egyptian” or the locally-published regional daily the “Southern Illinoisan.” But among the three non-daily papers, “Heartland Women” is clearly the best.
“Heartland Women” is the newest of the publications, closing in on its second birthday, but something about the format and style of the paper make it the best of the local free, non-daily papers. “Heartland Women” is published bi-weekly by the mother/daughter team of Chanda Green and Dalus Kulich. Both had extensive journalism experience before deciding to join the ranks of newspaper publishers and it may be their unique combined experience that makes their paper such a wonderful product. Chanda and Dalus decided early on to target their publication to women and to write about women and they make no apologies for their choices. It doesn’t mean that men can’t and don’t enjoy the paper; it simply means the editors focus on topics that are generally under-reported in mainstream news organizations.
The sports section focuses on women in sports, women’s sports teams and the women who make the local sports franchises, including the college teams, work. The health and spirituality sections focus on women’s health issues. Don’t ever expect to see an article on prostate cancer here, although the ladies might surprise you. There are personal columns dealing with everything from dating in high school to reuniting with estranged parents, all written by women about their own experiences. The depth of emotion in the reporting and opinions also is part of the appeal of the paper. A recent father’s day column included Chanda’s recounting of her life-long poor relationship with her father and her efforts to be a good daughter whether he liked it or not. The front page often features women from around the region discussing or commenting on the chosen topic of the issue, be it a holiday or the coming of a spring.
The appeal of the paper is in its willingness to address topics that other papers shy away from and its willingness to acknowledge that food, nutrition and money are as important in the lives of women as politics and international news. That doesn’t mean they shy away from hard news, as both Chanda and Dalus are quite capable of doing news features on the women making news, including Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican running for governor of Illinois. But it does mean the article on Topinka focused as much on her family life and upbringing as on her new budget plan for the state. Other free papers in Carbondale simply don’t have the appeal that “Heartland Women” does. “Nightlife” is primarily a listing of upcoming events, including what band is playing at what bar over the weekend and what the cover charge will be. The paper also has a few locally produced opinion columns and features on local bands and entertainers, but it is largely wire copy, imported to fill space around the ads and the local entertainment listings. The “Carbondale Times” would like to be the serious newspaper of the community, but has neither the budget nor the staff to compete with the local daily paper, the “Southern Illinoisan.”
Unfortunately, largely due to funding issues, the quality of reporting in the “Carbondale Times” is spotty, at best. Often, despite being very local, they miss important events around the community and because it is a weekly paper, cannot effectively report breaking news like fires or crime. The overall effect is that they appear to be a labor of love of the publisher and a thorn in the side of the “Southern Illinoisan”, but of no real consequence in the news arena. “Heartland Women” on the other hand, though published only bi-weekly, has occasionally had a story that makes the local daily newspaper reporters scratch their heads and wonder how they missed the boat. For local news with a touch of personality, in Carbondale, its tough to beat “Heartland Women.”