Another year gone by, we've told a lot of stories

Monday marked the beginning of the third year of operation for The Sentinel. At approximately 1:15p, after nearly three months of research and planning, I published the first Sentinel story on December 14 in 2018.

The last 12 out of the past 24 months has been surrealistic. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, an offer to buy The Sentinel and covering just one sporting event since February 28, like 90% of the population on this spinning mass of rock I can't wait for this year to be over. I know normal is still ways off but it needs to hurry up and get here.

I haven't had the Corona or the vaccine. I'm thankful for not getting both at this point. I'm feeling pretty confident that if I make to January 1 without either, 2021 will be a piece of chocolate cake with orange icing and sprinkles.

I enjoy being a journalist, meeting people, telling their stories and doing my best to keep loyal readers informed. The past year has been an awful time in the news business. It has been rough a row to hoe between the COVID pandemic and the proliferation of slanted news outlets that intentionally omits or misrepresent facts to further an agenda of division that is testing the core values of our nation.

The Sentinel is a labor of love. I'll likely never see even a modest financial return on the sweat equity that allowed me double the number of stories I published during the past year. While business owners are skeptical about using online papers to reach a wider audience with their brand, the Coronavirus pandemic has essentially flushed the traditional advertising model, which paid for the production of weekly and daily papers, down the proverbial crapper.

Despite the pandemic, The Sentinel has published more than twice the number of stories and articles, 398 to be exact, than in the previous year. In the past 12 months the online publication has added a Photo-of-the-Day series, published over a dozen Spartan Spotlights featuring SJO students from the Class of 2020, and added a Coronavirus Dashboard to track the number of cases locally. In June, The Sentinel added the villages of Sidney, Philo and Tolono to its area of coverage.

The most-read story in the past year, On the fence about getting vaccinated? You might not have a choice has been read over 12 thousand times. The Sentinel's story announcing the Illinois Rural Health Association virtual conference in October is the second most popular story followed by our story on the double homicide in St. Joseph.

In case you missed them, we also published six pieces on money and finance from Jake Pence. Jake is the President of Blue Chip Real Estate and a consultant for Fairlawn Capital, Inc.. A 2019 graduate from the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois, he graduated from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 2016 where he was a three-sport athlete for the Spartans.

I'm looking forward meeting the challenges for the next 12 months. Sheltering-in-place gave me the opportunity to refine my web design skills. Over the next nine months will undergo a gradual makeover to become even more refined and more user friendly.

Finally, I would like to encourage readers to send your Letters to the Editor. Tell us why we should support local candidates for village and township elections, congratulate or thank a neighbor. We welcome your opinion on masks, restaurants ignoring or following Illinois' Tier 3 mitigation, or if schools should be open or close. Remember is YOUR sentinel watching over our communities.

Hope to see here again next year!

Clark Brooks, Publisher

St. Joseph-Ogden High School 2024 baseball seniors