By Cheryl Kravitz
Sometimes things take awhile. Saying “you were right” is one of them.
I peaked pretty young. I started working as a journalist at the age of 18 on the South Side of Chicago, best known for Bad Boy Leroy Brown, Barack Obama, and, in many circles, David Axelrod.
By the age of 21 I was the editor of the Hyde Park Herald newspaper. The newspaper was founded in 1882, and always claimed to be “Chicago’s Oldest Community Newspaper.” Hyde Park was a double whammy of the best and worst of Chicago-style politics, intellectuals on every street, radicals and the looming influence of the University of Chicago. I was at the right place at the right time.
The staff of the Herald was all young and enthusiastic. The grown up was our general manager Bo, who knew exactly what he was dealing with. He left all the editorial work to me, liking nothing better than to chomp his cigar, sell display ads and make fun of the Hyde Park establishment, such as they were. He was one of the few African American newspaper general managers in the business at that time. I didn’t drive and his favorite thing to do was to pick me up from my parents’ home on the then-all-white Southwest Side, honk his car horn and yell “where’s my woman?” I miss him.
One day our political columnist, Tom, let us know he was leaving. I wrung my hands in despair. I was already working with our stable of Hyde Park freelance writers, covering all the hard news stories and researching and writing our investigative series every few months. I could write color stories on candidates but had no clue how to REALLY cover Chicago politics. We needed a political columnist and reporter and we needed one who knew what he or she was doing.
Sort of on cue, Bo came into my office with a disheveled young man. He had wild black hair, kind eyes and an eagerness I recognized. I’d seen it in my mirror. He introduced me to our new political reporter, David Axelrod. David was willing to work for $15 a week. He was 19 and a student at the University of Chicago. I adored him from the start.
During that time period I was dating a man who would eventually become my husband. He was the head of the Hyde Park Jewish Community Center. He was erudite, good looking and swept me off my feet. He seemed like my dream come true.
Time passed and there were little warning signs about him that I chose to ignore. We wound up getting engaged. He was fired from the JCC and offered a job in Tulsa. David took my apartment and I headed south. David kept telling me he felt like something was off. He didn’t need to move into my apartment, I didn’t need to leave Chicago, and whatever was wrong could be solved.
I didn’t listen. I was severely abused. I almost lost my life. Divorced, I moved to D.C. for a job and never left. I followed the trajectory of David’s career. Someday I would let him know he was right.
Gaithersburg, Md., recently held its sixth annual book festival. I noticed David was on the roster of authors. He mentions the Herald in his book “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.” I asked if there was any way I could spend some time with him. He said yes.
David’s professional bio is impressive. I’m proud of him for that. But for me, his finest hour came when I was able to tell him I’m sorry I didn’t listen all those years ago and for him to understand and give me a hug.
I asked if he could sign his book for me. I didn’t read what he wrote until I got home. It says “To Cheryl, with appreciation for launching my career.”
He’s got that wrong…this is for David…thank you for launching my life.
Cheryl Kravitz is president of CRK Communications in Silver Spring, MD.
She was the editor of the Hyde Park Herald from 1971-1976. Kravitz writes for national and local magazines, newspapers and broadcast media and as a survivor of domestic violence, she speaks and writes frequently about the topic for local and national audiences. For more information, visit crkcommunications.com.