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Larry Lough

What were you thinking? Readers tell us

Readers find inventive ways to comment about their newspaper.

They will scrawl a message in the margins of their renewal notice.

They might write their comments around the edges of news articles that they clip out to send to the editor.

Sometimes they mount the clips on a sheet of paper to give them more space to write.

We get the message.

In many ways.

JUST THIS WEEK, a reader clipped The Argyle Sweater from the comics page and edited the text to make his point.

The panel showed a physician telling a newspaper (it had a little face and arms and legs) that it had “poor circulation” that it could remedy with a “Bigger comics section.”

(That actually is a not-so-subtle message that editors occasionally get from cartoonists, who think their artwork is published too small.)

The reader who clipped that cartoon, however, changed the remedy from “Bigger ...” to a “Better comics section.”

The reader even had suggestions for doing that: Eliminate The Argyle Sweater, Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine, Get Fuzzy and (from the weekend section) Rhymes With Orange.

Those are some of the editor’s favorites!

But everybody is different, and we have a large and diverse audience that could never agree on what comics to keep and which to kill.

If you enjoy half or more of those we publish, you’re probably in the same boat with most of our readers.

WE CAN TELL A LOT about people from their comics preferences – usually age.

Those comics on the “hit list” of the reader above are targeted for people who are under 40, although people of all ages do enjoy them.

This editor is decidedly north of 40, but he still counts Dilbert and Pearls Before Swine in his Top 5 daily strips in this newspaper – along with Baby Blues, Zits and Pickles.

Those final three represent a nice progression – family life involving young children, teenagers and a retired couple.

The editor’s Top 5 of comics we don’t publish daily or are no longer in circulation (in alphabetical order): Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Pogo and The Boondocks.

You almost certainly have a different Top 5. Or 10.

A Google search seems to indicate that no two people share the same list.

MAYBE NO FEATURE in the newspaper gets as much feedback from readers as the crossword puzzles.

Three or four times a year, we have a problem – a puzzle is omitted, the wrong one is printed, the answer doesn’t match the puzzle, etc.

And we always hear about it – which we should. Readers have a right to expect us to publish the correct puzzles and answers.

Last month a reader clipped out a puzzle and unmatched answer, pasted them to a sheet of paper, and wrote a note beside them.

“Do these look alike?” she asked. “Why do you keep printing them in the same issue? You spoil my fun!”

The daily puzzles are placed in the classified advertising section, and a new employee just made a wrong choice from among different puzzles we have to choose from.

We always publish the correct items on subsequent days, but that doesn’t lessen the frustration of the dedicated puzzle solver.

Our apologies.

ANOTHER THING WE think we detect among readers who write with a complaint or a concern: Women seem to be more willing than men to sign their name to a note or letter.

We can usually tell – by the tone or the handwriting – whether the writer is male or female.

That’s one of the things you learn in more than 35 years of being an editor – especially one whose name and photo in the paper invite personal feedback.

Not sure why other men are often so shy.

Must be a guy thing.