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Larry Lough

When you’re in Illinois, down can be up

Where you are is relative to where everything else is.

And where you are isn’t always a physical space.

You can be in a bad place even if you’re in a good neighborhood.

Most of the time, you can’t do anything about it.

Welcome to Illinois.

IN LAST WEEK’S column, the editor made reference to “we downstate folks.”

A reader objected in an online comment.

“I am not sure where Mr. Lough is from, but he needs a geography lesson,” he wrote. “Whenever I listen to the news from Chicago and they reference the Sauk Valley, they also refer to this area as downstate Illinois.

“Carbondale is downstate Illinois. The Shawnee National forest is downstate Illinois. The Sauk Valley is not. Someone is disoriented, and I hope [it] isn’t me.”

Sorry, friend.

You’re in Illinois.

WHEN THE EDITOR began working in the Sauk Valley nearly 6 years ago, he, too, was confused by references to being downstate.

Geographically, down is south. That’s what confuses us literal thinkers.

But when you live in Illinois, you must relate to the 1960s counterculture novel “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.”

You have to adopt a new state of mind.

And that is the state of Chicago.

ALTHOUGH WE ARE wary of Wikipedia, we find it’s a good place to begin an inquiry.

“Downstate Illinois refers to all of Illinois outside of the Chicago metropolitan area,” the online resource explains. “This term is flexible, but because it is generally meant to refer to everything outside the Chicago-area, some cities in Northern Illinois, such as Rockford (which is north of Chicago), are considered to be ‘downstate.’ ...

“The term has been part of the Illinois vernacular for decades, and is commonly used by the media. The General Assembly ... regularly makes references to the term in the titles of bills it passes.”

In fact, Illinois House Democrats have several members who make up a Downstate Caucus, which includes a legislator from Rockford, which is decidedly not south of Chicago.

That ends your disorientation tour.

Welcome to Illinois.

AS AN ANSWER to the inquiry about “where Mr. Lough is from,” let’s set the record straight.

The editor is from Indiana, was educated at Indiana University, and spent three decades in the East Central region of the Hoosier state, working for newspapers (31 years) and teaching college journalism (17 years), all of it concurrent.

He moved to downstate Illinois more than 10 years ago to work for Shaw Media, and he has had assignments in seven offices for five different Shaw publications across northern Illinois (which is still downstate).

On Friday, he began the 43rd year of his journalism career.

So, in a physical and professional sense, that’s where he’s from.

Happy to be here.

KEEPING CUSTOMERS happy is a part of the editor’s job.

But it’s not an easy thing to do.

Readers want their newspaper to be about them – or, at least, things that interest them.

A subscriber for the past 70 years called about the lack of hometown news in the paper.

“Tired of Dixon news in the Gazette,” the reader told us. “Bring back more Sterling, Rock Falls, please.”

In fact, this week’s editions had more Sterling and Rock Falls news than Dixon news, which probably bothered some Telegraph readers.

But with a small reporting staff (and one vacancy), we can’t have a reporter in every town every day.

We must go where the news happens (if we know about it) – and it just happened to favor Whiteside County this past week. A murder-suicide will tend to tip the scales.

The reader who complained didn’t mention any specific stories we had failed to report.
Because we can’t be everywhere all the time, we count on readers to let us know what they see and hear that ought to be reported in the newspaper.

We appreciate the help.

Call or write anytime.