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Larry Lough

We do local news, but never enough

Maybe once a month, the editor gets the same phone call from a different reader.

The concern/complaint is familiar: we don’t report enough local news from that reader’s town.

Newspaper readers count on their newspaper to bring them stories about their towns, schools and neighborhoods.

Who else is going to do it?

And, surveys tell us, it is virtually impossible to give readers enough local news to sate their thirst for information.

That’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly.

ON THAT RECENT Wednesday, the call came from a resident who wanted more news from Sterling and Rock Falls.

While the front page that day had stories that probably interested most readers, none originated in Sterling or Rock Falls.

But in the “skybox” above the nameplate was a picture of two high school tennis players – from Sterling. That “reefer” promoted a story on the front of the Sports section about those Sterling High juniors and their preparation for the sectional tournament.

The other “reefer” atop that page promoted Bravehearts, a special section inside that day’s edition that profiled the lives of 10 local cancer patients – most of whom had a connection to Sterling or Rock Falls.

And that was just the front page.

ALTHOUGH NOBODY wants his name in the Community Watch column on Page A2, that day’s list included the names of 22 local residents who had received traffic citations – six of them from Sterling or Rock Falls.

Page A3 had a story about energy-efficiency grants that are available to Rock Falls residents. The page also had a photo of a Rock Falls man – and his dog – in Centennial Park.

The A section had lots of “local” stuff for the caller: two obituaries of Sterling residents, a story about a new Jimmy John’s restaurant coming to Rock Falls, a picture of a Rock Falls man fishing in the Hennepin Canal, a letter co-written by two residents of Rock Falls and Sterling, a short item about a chicken dinner at a Rock Falls church, and a nutrition column by a health educator at CGH Medical Center in Sterling.

Rock Falls and Sterling were certainly not ignored in the two calendars published that day. Between them, we listed 41 events and meetings scheduled for those two cities for that week.

And that was only part of the local report.

SECTION B, WHERE we offer our daily sports report, had a front page that featured the No. 1 girls tennis team from Sterling High, with profile pictures of the girls.

Page B1 also included coverage of the Rock Falls volleyball victory over Byron the night before. That report included three photos from the match.

The high school sports roundup on B3 was led by the Sterling volleyball team’s victory over Ottawa, and it included Sterling’s soccer victory over LaSalle-Peru. Those two items mentioned the feats of nine Sterling athletes.

Sterling’s girls tennis team also was listed in the preview of the Rock Island sectional on Page B4, where a Sterling athlete was mention among the “Singles players to watch.”

If you don’t read the classified ads, you should. That day, we learned a declawed tabby cat had been found in Sterling, people were trying to sell lots of cool stuff (including a 1950 four-door Chevrolet), and notices were published for two home foreclosures in Sterling and a foreclosure sale in Rock Falls.

All of that is news, too.

AS THE EDITOR told the caller, if we have failed to report something you think is important or interesting from your community, let us know.

Call. Email. Write a letter. Post a note on our website.

If it didn’t show up in the newspaper, chances are we didn’t know about it.

We count on the eyes and ears of our readers to help our small staff to know what’s going on.

Thanks for your assistance.

ANOTHER READER wondered about our editing of The Readers Voice, the letters to the editor on the Opinion page.

“Someone asked me why it is edited by your staff since it is the voice [of the reader],” the email said. “Unless it is profane or too long, yes, why?”

Readers should know that everything submitted to the news department is subject to editing for length and content.

We edit for many reasons, including:

Factual accuracy: People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

Contextual accuracy: You can tell half the story accurately, but it’s not the truth if it’s a half-truth.

Grammatical accuracy: This includes spelling, because sloppy usage diminishes the credibility of writing.

Tonal accuracy: We want to avoid language that is inappropriate, offensive, rude or racist, among other things.

Clarity: We can improve the effectiveness of writing by correcting confusing syntax and misused words.

Defamation: Defamatory falsehoods can get us, as well as the writer, into legal trouble.

What we choose to publish is a reflection on us as well as our contributors.

That’s why an editor feels compelled to edit.

NOT EVERYTHING we hear from readers complains about or questions what we do.

When a gentleman came into the office this week to pay his bill, he left a note.

“Great paper. Keep the press working; our true and best freedom!” he wrote. “Enjoy the opinion page & world news.”

Yes, we do have the best readers in the world.

Thanks for reading.