All hands on deck: Weekly newspapers do not spring, full-born, into mailboxes and onto newsstands. Takes a lot of work. Experience helps. And a passion for it is the most critical quality.

Not coincidentally, back in February when we bought three more weeklies-bringing our total to nine-we also hired a managing editor charged with creating extraordinary excellence and helping us meet a deadline for the first time in 28 years.

Helen Karakoudas comes to us from Texas, where for the past five years she worked as a copy editor and page designer for the Dallas Morning News. Before that-actually way before that-she did the same work for the Charlotte Observer after graduating from Medill.

Between newspapers jobs in Charlotte and Dallas, she took 18 years to raise two kids, finding mommy hours in opening and running a small retail specialty shop. She knows mom’n’pop business, Helen tells me.

We talked to a lot of fine candidates: some locals, many from across the country. Helen stood out for her energy, style and passion for community journalism, whether in print or online.

Didn’t hurt that, back in her Medill days, she was a stringer for the old Lerner papers, the last of which we wound up buying from the Sun-Times. So Helen knows the difference between Ravenswood and Edgewater and that there is no good way to get from our humble world headquarters in Oak Park to, say, Rogers Park.

She’s working with our staff of 15 editors, reporters and photographers. They’re motley gems, she tells me, and they’re mostly pleased to have someone paying extra attention to their copy and their story ideas, particularly someone who knows the difference between “it’s” and “its,” unlike some publisher who will remain unnamed.

Welcome, Helen.

-Dan Haley, publisher