Paperwork: How about we turn this into a conversation

Be careful what you ask for.

Oh, I can hear the whispered warning already as I begin my weekly ritual. But I am sticking with my plan to make a direct request to you. Or let’s call it an invitation.

Every week, usually on Tuesdays, I peck on my small keyboard and start chatting with you. I basically just spill out whatever is stirring inside me and share it with you.

I say “you,” knowing and hoping there are many, many “yous” out there who are reading this. We group you together as “the readers,” but I know each of you are different in many ways. And yet all the same in other ways.

I try to connect with the common threads. The stuff that binds us. I usually avoid what divides us, although it’s hard to avoid sometimes.

I am old-school journalism, dating back to the 1960s. A good chunk of my career was before social media and online global connections. When feedback came into the newsroom, it usually was a letter or a caller. Also, often angry.

In fact, we often wondered who or how many people read what we wrote for the paper. That, of course, has changed dramatically. Now feedback is rapid. And brutal. But always eye-opening.

But also positive and supportive and rewarding.

The lesson from social media is that yes, people do read. They do follow the news – even if it’s only online. People do care.

And – this is important – what we write does have impact.

What I write each week are thoughts and feelings. Opinions and commentary. It’s more like pages from a weekly personal journal. In fact, often I am talking to myself, working through ideas and feelings. And then sharing it with you.

That’s a scary thing to do. To expose yourself, admit feelings and express thoughts and ideas. But it’s also healing. Good therapy. Because I discover more about who I am. And that I am not alone.

Which brings me to the invitation. Talk to me. Share your feelings, your reactions and thoughts and ideas and pages from your diaries.

I hear from many of you now. Often on Facebook after I share what I have written. But there’s still something special when feedback comes the old-fashioned way, like it did today, in my mailbox.

The letter was personal so I will just say it was from Sandy in Joliet.

She shared her story prompted by the recent column I wrote about shouting inside the home and the demanding, shattering ring of a telephone on the wall.

“You understand I am living the ringing telephone with its loud bell,” she wrote. “My dad and ma had the house I live in built in 1955. I still live here and retain the telephone. Wall mounted, hardwired, black rotary dial and installed in the kitchen. The modern feature is it has a long cord. Love it.

“During the derecho last August I still had a working telephone. ... I had no failure in communication. I was not sitting in my car charging a phone or running to someone who had power.

“This telephone is a good weapon. You do not want to get hit on the head with it. It is still a totally functional telephone, it receives telephone calls and I can dial out. Operative word being dial. Also, in my world of living in the past, I have an antenna on a pole for my TV viewing (get about 45 channels) and no online computer (that is what they make libraries for and I pay for them).

“So I probably save about $200+ and miss nothing that I do not have. Living is easy. You would like this, my mode of information is I get the newspaper to read. That is how I find you. The old-fashion way. Works great, life is simple.”

See what I mean? I like that she reads my columns but I especially enjoy the slice of life she shared. It’s not breaking news but a human story that triggers memories for me. A fun read simply about a telephone on her kitchen wall. (And I do remember the antenna dad wrestled on the roof.)

When I write, it’s a conversation with you, especially when you talk back. Like Sandy did.

So ... please do, even if you want to scold me or offer a different perspective.

At the bottom of every column I write is a brief note about me that includes my email and a mailing address.

If you have a comment or memory or personal story to share, please send it to me.

Help me keep this conversation going.

• Lonny Cain is the retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa and was a reporter for the Herald-News in the 1970s. Email him at or mail to The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.