EYE ON ILLINOIS: For our state, this space and our readers: A moment of gratitude

Jo Daviess County’s rolling hills. Wrigley Field. Shawnee National Forest. Route 84 north of Savanna. The Museum of Science and Industry.

Ottawa’s Lincoln-Douglas statuary fountain. Sky Trek Tower at Great America. Heritage Canyon in Fulton. Pequod’s in Morton Grove. The Silo in Lake Bluff. The Krannert Center in Urbana. State parks too many to mention, such as Ferne Clyffe, Giant City, Moraine Hills, Illinois Beach and Mississippi Palisades. Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.

These and more are just a few corners of Illinois that have been special to me over four-plus decades, and on a day dedicated to American gratitude it seemed worthwhile to set aside a few moments for appreciation. (It probably helps that my fourth grader currently is studying the state and so our home is replete with library books touting Illinois’ splendor.)

We’ve all got plenty of reasons to dislike our home state as well. Don’t believe me? I offer you a few weeks’ access to my email inbox. Although I always try to avoid needless negativity, today I choose intentional optimism – hopefully with no disrespect to those struggling with the considerable challenges of our current health and economic climate.

Personally, I’m thankful for the chance to have this space to connect with readers three or four times a week about state government, how it affects our lives and how we, as regular taxpayers, can in turn directly affect those politicians and agencies that have such influence.

When the Shaw Media editorial team came to me a little more than six months ago with the opportunity to write Eye On Illinois, it filled a creative hole in my life. After taking fingers to keyboard with Libertyville High School’s Drops of Ink student newspaper in August 1995, which led to some occasional Daily Herald bylines, journalism was part of my life for nearly 25 years until mid-March, when coronavirus dealt the local print news business another in a long-running series of staggering blows.

Newspaper folk keep running mental lists of where our newsroom colleagues are working these days, if at all. The past few months have seen a rapid exodus. Some by choice, others by force. I’ve seen top-shelf sportswriters become excellent city hall and school board reporters. Photojournalists and copy editors/page designers have continued to prove the medium is vital and vibrant. It’s an honor to be on the team.

But as usual, it’s the readers who make everything click. Being able to run in a handful of different publications has fostered connections in many different corners: encouraging, chastising, inquiring, inspiring. Most everyone wants a better Illinois, even if we disagree on the building blocks.

So thanks for reading – and writing. May your holiday heart be full. Happy Thanksgiving.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.