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Here’s why we did it (or maybe we didn’t)

Why did you do that?

Why didn’t you do it?

Those might be the two most frequently asked questions the editor hears from readers.

They go to the heart of what editing a newspaper is about: Making tons of subjective decisions on matters large and small every day.

And every editorial decision – what to print or not print; whether it appears on the front page or the back – is subject to disagreement by someone who has different interests, standards and experiences.

That’s why we love this business.

INSIDE TODAY’S edition is a story about the new Christian Science Church in Dixon. You can read the details elsewhere in this section.

It has, strangely, become a topic of much discussion – not just in Dixon, but worldwide.

The building, which is expected to be opened next month, offers a highly functional design with beautiful views of the area, including the Rock River.

And it was built to accommodate nature – to preserve a beautiful old oak tree that would have been destroyed had the property been cleared for a traditionally designed building.

Because of those octagonal rooms on either end of the building for its purposeful entry and sanctuary, and because of the gently curved design around that lovely oak, the shape of the church from an aerial view has received a lot of unwanted – and, frankly, unwarranted – attention.

Such is life in these modern – though not necessarily advanced – times.

IF THIS HAS BEEN a topic of community discussion – even international attention – for weeks, why is this newspaper just now publishing a story?

If the shape of the church has received nationally televised exposure – on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show as well as Tosh.0 on Comedy Central – why isn’t this page 1 news?

Good questions.

One Dixon reader called last week to say she found the attention to be “very disturbing” when “a very inappropriate picture” was shown on Fallon’s show.

When she called a Rockford station to object, she says, she was given a number to call CBS in New York. Maybe she was given that number, we told her, because Fallon’s show appears on NBC.

But her concern was our first concern: How do you deal with this story tastefully?

And, second, how much attention should we give to the object of sophomoric giggling, which attracted online comments that mostly fit into a narrow range between naughty and vulgar?

This was a story of wide (though shallow) interest, but of virtually no importance.

How much “news” coverage does that justify?

SO WHEN AN OFFICER of the church called us this week to talk, we willingly set up a meeting.

Scott Shepherd came to that meeting with pages of notes of points that he, and fellow officers, wanted to make.

Their primary objective, it seemed, was to reinforce the mission of their church and explain that they would not let childish chatter cause them to alter the design of their church, which they’ve named Gathering Light: Center for Spiritual Seeking.

They understood that the novelty of the design had a very short shelf life, and they were satisfied with letting the attention run its brief course before the Internet crowd moved on to other trivial matters.

We applaud their approach. Any architectural revisions might ruin what promises to be an impressive use of natural light to create an atmosphere of openness and to promote a diverse search of personal spirituality.

We look forward to visiting the completed building.

MOST READERS didn’t notice, or didn’t care, that we dropped the cable TV channel guide on the front of TV Week, the programming guide we distribute with the weekend edition of this newspaper.

Since we did that a few months ago, we have received a few calls – fewer than 10 – from readers who wanted to know why it disappeared.

In short, we did it because we had routinely received even more complaints about inaccuracies in the guide.

The problem, we explained to readers who called, was that our market area is covered by nine different cable TV companies. The guide was intended to let readers in each cable service area know which channels corresponded to what networks.

For example, ESPN is Channel 29 in some communities, and Channel 24 or Channel 7 or 51 or 22 or 18 or 26 in another.

Discovery Channel might be the champ: eight different channel numbers among the nine cable providers in the Sauk Valley.

But cable companies seemed always to be rotating programming around their available channels, and they didn’t notify us of those changes. Monitoring the ongoing channel changes of nine different cable companies just wasn’t an efficient use of our time.

As a result, our guide was continually inaccurate. By the time we found out about a specific problem (because a reader complained) and got it fixed, another company would scramble its lineup.

We now advise callers to ask their cable providers for a channel guide for their specific service. That guide often is included with a monthly bill, or it can be found online.

Sorry if our decision caused an inconvenience for some people. But an unreliable channel guide did viewers no good.

We’re sure the cable providers are happy to accommodate their customers.

OUR THANKS TO the anonymous caller who left a voice mail message for the editor Monday morning.

“I’m so grateful for the Gazette,” he said, mentioning specifically “David Giuliani’s investigative work,” and “I like your wry editorials.”

“Thank you for a nice paper that gives us a lot of pleasure,” he said.

We know nearly all of our readers also appreciate their local newspaper – all for slightly different reasons.

And we appreciate hearing from them.

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