For the past 20 years Bob Uphues has pretty much been the Riverside Brookfield Landmark. He has edited this newspaper and been its primary reporter. Most weeks he wrote six or seven news stories, some weeks he wrote more, compiled the police report and wrote an editorial. He also edited the stories of other reporters.
During his 20 years at the helm of this newspaper Uphues has written approximately 6,000 stories and probably more than 3 million words about the communities of Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside. He reported the news and told the stories of the people who live in these communities. He participated in the Riverside and Brookfield 4th of July parades.
He was the face, the heart and soul of the Landmark.
This year Uphues decided that 20 years was enough. Aug. 29 was his last day on the job. He is proud of his 20 years at the helm of the Landmark.
“Being the editor of the Landmark for 20 years is the highlight of my 33-year career in journalism,” Uphues said in farewell remarks at recent village board meetings in Brookfield and Riverside.
Uphues understood the intricacies of municipal government better than almost anyone.
“He literally knows the village inside and out,” said Cristin Evans, a Riverside village board member who was once a community newspaper reporter. “He understands village government better than probably most of us on the board.”
Brookfield Village Manager Tim Wiberg agreed.
“I’ve worked in local government for over 30 years. I’ve worked with a lot of local reporters and you’re one of the best, if not the best, that I’ve ever worked with,” Wiberg told Uphues after the editor made his first and last public comment at the Aug. 28 Brookfield village board meeting. “You’re conscientious, you’re professional, you’re diligent. You take the time to call and verify items.”
At a meeting in late July, the village of Riverside honored Uphues by giving him a framed map of the village.
“He is an integral part of this town and he will be missed,” said Joe Ballerine, Riverside village president, at the July 20 meeting of the Riverside village board where Uphues was honored.
North Riverside Mayor Joseph Mengoni said he was surprised when he heard that Uphues was leaving the paper.
“I was shocked when I heard, good for him,” Mengoni said. “I think Bob has been very fair during my tenure on the board with the village. He reports honesty and truth and I think he’s going to be truly missed in our area.”
Uphues gave the Landmark a hard news focus free of the boosterism of some community newspapers. He reported the good news and the bad news. He was always willing to get the word out about initiatives and celebrate successes but he didn’t write puff pieces. He was respected by almost everyone he covered. He built relationships with the people he covered. His friendly manner and outgoing personality allowed him to make friends easily and develop sources. He was direct in his dealings with people. Most people liked him. Pretty much everyone respected him.
“He’s a good friend of the village,” Ballerine said. “He’s always been an honest and very detail-orientated reporter. Even though we don’t always agree with his details he does a wonderful job.”
Ben Sells, a former Riverside village president, described Uphues as fair, impeccably honest, smart and courageous in a Facebook post.
“We have been extremely fortunate to have a journalist of Bob’s skill, sophistication, tenacity, and integrity,” Sells wrote on Facebook. “He has been steadfast in getting the story right, and his editorials always hit the mark. I will miss his byline and insights and wish him the very best in the next chapters of his life.”
Uphues was a dogged reporter and a graceful, fast writer. In the newsroom he was known as a loud typist for the way he furiously pounded his keyboard when he was banging out a story. Although his voice could be loud at times, he was calm on deadline, even taking calls at the last minute from a reporter who wanted to change something about a story or a reader who had a concern. He was dedicated to the paper, often writing the police reports even when he was on vacation to make sure they got done and done right.
He typically worked five days a week during the day and usually covered a couple of night meetings each week. That gets draining. He sat through countless meetings that often dealt with mundane matters but were important to the people who were affected by decisions that local governments make. He knows about alleys and street work.
Uphues, 60, was a mentor to younger reporters at the Wednesday Journal company, which became Growing Community Media when it switched to non-profit status a few years ago. Not only did he put out the Landmark every week, he advised and helped out the Landmark’s sister papers such as the Wednesday Journal which covers Oak Park and River Forest, the Forest Park Review and Austin Weekly News. Whenever founder and publisher Dan Haley faced a tough editorial decision he sought out Uphues’ advice and opinion.
Uphues didn’t set out to be a journalist. He grew up in Berwyn and has lived in his hometown pretty much his entire adult life except when he was in school. He says he wasn’t much interested in news as a kid.
He attended Fenwick High School where he was an outstanding swimmer and water polo player. In his senior year at Fenwick Uphues finished 10th in the 100-yard backstroke at the state championships. He graduated from John Carroll University in Cleveland where he was on the swimming and water polo teams. After graduating from John Carroll he went to graduate school and earned two master’s degrees, one in English from Purdue and one in art history from the University of Wisconsin where he specialized in architectural history.
But after life as something of a perpetual student Uphues decided to try to become a journalist although he had never taken a single class in journalism. In 1991 he began freelancing for Wednesday Journal. His first story was about a woman who had returned to Oak Park from Israel after being in Israel during the scud missile attacks from Iraq. He began specializing in sports reporting and was quickly named as Wednesday Journal’s first ever sports editor.
In 1997 when Wednesday Journal bought what was then the Riverside Landmark from State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, Uphues was named managing editor of all four Wednesday Journal, Inc. flags.
After a couple years as managing editor Uphues, who at the time had five young children, left the company and worked for a time for an employment agency and covered high school sports for the Daily Herald. In 2003 he was lured back to Wednesday Journal company with the offer of being the editor of the Landmark. The Landmark had gone through five editors in the six years since Wednesday Journal bought it.
At the time Uphues figured he’d stay a few years to stabilize the paper. Instead he stayed on for 20 years writing every type of story and giving his life and soul to the paper.
“I think one of the reasons I stayed so long is because the people in Riverside and Brookfield and North Riverside embraced the newspaper,” Uphues said.
But this year he decided that 20 years was enough. Putting out a newspaper week in and week out is grinding work. He’s going to take some time off before he decides what to do next. He’s a bit of foodie and will have more time to explore new restaurants and cook. He enjoys music and for a time played guitar in a rock band. He will enjoy being able to stay home at night during the week and not have to trudge off to cover a meeting. He will be missed.
“Bob has been the consummate hometown editor,” said Haley, Uphues’ boss and publisher of Growing Community Media. “He is deeply connected to the three towns he covered. He was tough but fair in his reporting. He was empathetic and that’s a wonderful combination of virtues and that’s what he brought to the work.”