Let them (and us) hear what you’re thinking

Interacting with readers is the favorite part of the job for this editor.

Agree, disagree, whatever.

We just like to know that 1) you’re reading and 2) you’re thinking about what you’re reading.

People who call or write with a criticism often don’t want to express their complaints publicly.

They just want the editor to know how they feel.

That’s fine. Call or write anytime.

OUR EDITORIAL THIS past weekend brought comments from some readers who have opinions about Dixon’s debate over how – even whether – to change the current commission form of city government.

The editorial – this newspaper’s opinion – was that change was needed to refocus city council members toward being representatives of local citizens rather than quasi-supervisors of local government operations.

One reader latched on to the editorial’s observation that the only qualifications to be a candidate for the council were age and residency – yet the job thrusts elected members into administrative roles for which they seldom have knowledge or experience.

“The qualification of being a resident is not enough to be on the council,” the reader said in an email. “At least educational, moral and maybe psychological profile should be included.”

Hmmm ... psychological profile for political candidates? Voters might like that information before entering the voting booth.

Well, we don’t hire police officers without knowing something about their mental and emotional makeup.

But candidates for public office? That raises some privacy concerns.

We probably should leave it to biographical profiles and political opponents to raise questions about candidates’ intelligence and stability.

ONE ELECTED OFFICIAL wrote to complain about the editorial.

He said the commentary was “clearly attempting to intimidate and undermine” the task force appointed by Mayor Jim Burke to recommend a government reorganization.

“It seems to me they should be left to finish their work without political or media influence,” he wrote.

We’re unsure how much we can “intimidate” the task force, which includes the CEO of the company that owns this newspaper.

We explained to the reader that our editorial was a response to recent comments by some council members who publicly expressed a reluctance to give up their authority to an appointed city administrator or a manager.

The newspaper editorial board frequently adds its voice to the public discussion on matters of local importance. And we should have as much rights as those council members to participate in the debate.

You do, too. In fact, task force members will take your questions during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers at City Hall.

And if your question happens to reveal your opinion, ... well, that’s your right.

Even if you’re trying to influence the decision.

STEVEN WROTE recently after reading the editor’s column about the newspaper’s Statement of Editorial Principles.

“I found it quite ironic after reading a story on page two about a young man in jail charged with six felony charges,” his email said.

The headline on the story was, “Milkshake toss among suspect’s troubles.” It involved a young man with previous felony charges who was arrested on a count of aggravated battery for throwing a milkshake on two people.

“... The story on page two reads, ‘The Sterling Police Department was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon, and as of press time, the flavor of the milkshake was still unknown.’

“... Being in jail on $500,000 bond is serious!” Steven wrote. “I feel that humor is not appropriate at this time. ... Maybe the flavor makes a difference. If it does I will stand corrected. But humor and crime in our area does not seem to mix.”

Humor can have a place in news reporting, though sometimes it’s best just to report the facts and let readers make their own jokes about the absurdities involved.

Had the story involved a brutal attack or serious injuries, humor would not have been appropriate.

THIS PAST WEEKEND’S column involved the 17th Congressional District race in 2014, which seems destined to be a rematch between Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos and the man she unseated in November, Republican Bobby Schilling.

The editor noted that throughout her campaign and her first several months in office, she had never met with this newspaper’s editorial board. That is a departure from Schilling and his Democrat predecessor, Phil Hare, who have met several times with the board.

The congresswoman’s communications director, Colin Milligan, sent an email on Monday to invite a request for such a meeting.

“She’s been to Sterling and Rock Falls many times since taking office [and] we have always invited reporters from the paper to cover her events and talk with her,” he wrote. “Happy to stay in touch with you going forward.”

We will look forward to that meeting.

And we will make sure that readers hear about it.

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