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Reporters play musical chairs at local papers
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Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout Reporter, Gillian Pomplun

GAYS MILLS - Former reporters for the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout have been showing up in lots of other places lately.

The most recent move began with Erin Martin going to the Fennimore Times, where she took over for editor Rob Callahan. Martin had been serving as the Boscobel Dial reporter for the past two years from 2015 to 2017. Previously, she had worked as the Independent-Scout reporter from 2011 to 2015.

When Martin left Boscobel for Fennimore, it created an opening for a reporter at the Dial and longtime Independent-Scout reporter Emily Schendel decided to take that position.

Schendel had worked at the Gays Mills newspaper on three occasions, beginning as a 17-year-old North Crawford senior in 2006. In all, Schendel worked at the Independent-Scout from 2006 to 2007; and then from 2008 to 2010; her final stint as a reporter ran from 2015 to 2017. She also held a part-time position with the Independent-Scout from 2013 to 2015, while she attended UW-Richland.

With Martin and Schendel on the move, it created an opening at the Independent-Scout for a reporter. Gillian Pomplun, the newspaper’s part-time employee, stepped forward to take on the reporter role. Pomplun had served in that role, while Schendel was on maternity leave in the summer of 2016.

It should be noted that this trio of reporters have brought numerous awards to the Independent-Scout, during their tenures at the newspaper. Emily Schendel started things off as an 18-year-old photographer, when she won first place for spot news photography for small weeklies in Wisconsin Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest. Schendel’s photo of farmer Dennis Bell watching his barn fully engulfed in flames captured the raw emotion of that tragic moment.

The aggressive young reporter went on to win a host of awards from the WNA for reporting, photographs and page design.

“Well, I’ve only won one award for writing the rest of have come for photography,” Schendel noted.

That may change, as her new full-time reporter job at the Dial is just that. She isn’t required to do office work or the mailing or the host of the other things the Independent-Scout reporter must do in the three-quarter-time position. The new Dial reporter is definitely enjoying the concentration on writing and reporting she enjoys in her new position.

Erin Martin also wasted no time in winning multiple awards in the WNA Better Newspaper Contest. Martin was honored in the small weekly division with three first place awards for environmental reporting, as well as first place investigative reporting award and first place recognition for a story based on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In all, Martin won or shared in winning 14 awards from the WNA, during her four years with the Independent-Scout.

Interestingly enough, Gillian Pomplun also won two first place awards for small weeklies from the WNA last year. Like Martin, Pomplun won first place for environmental reporting. She also won first place for a sports feature. In all, Pomplun won or shared in winning four awards at the WNA Convention. What made it all the more impressive is that she did it in the 13 weeks that she substituted for Emily during the maternity leave.

Of course, it’s not just about the awards these reporters won; it’s really much more about the credibility they established for themselves and the newspaper for which they were working.

Finally, all this reporter movement created an opportunity for the youngest member of the crew, Rebecca Spencer, to follow her news passion by taking on the part-time employee role. Spencer, a 2017 North Crawford High School graduate, looks to be following in Schendel’s path. Spencer first published several stories in the Independent-Scout, while a high school senior.

Spencer shows every indication that her reporting will progress and so will she.

While the new positions have created more than a little excitement in the Independent-Scout circles, there has been some nostalgia for the good old days.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing for me,” said Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser. “These women are all high-quality reporters. That’s the reason they are hired for positions with larger roles and responsibilities. I can logically and rationally understand this. However, on another level I want them working here in Gays Mills with us.

“That being said, I guess it goes without saying the Independent-Scout wouldn't be the newspaper it is without the talent and ceaseless efforts of these reporters,” Preusser noted.

For their part, Schendel and Martin both look back fondly at their time with the Independent. Both women still live in Gays Mills and commute to Boscobel and Fennimore.

Martin, like Schendel, also misses working in Gays Mills.

“I liked working at the Independent,” Martin said. “I actually miss working with Charley Preusser. I thought we were really good partners.”

As for becoming the editor of the Fennimore Times, Martin is happy with the decision.

“I was interested in moving into an editor position and this is where the opportunity opened up,” Martin said. “I’ve found the town itself to be a very friendly place. A number of people have reached out to welcome me and say hello.”

Martin is also pretty happy with her work partner Heather Copus, the long-serving Times employee, who can do most everything.

“Heather is a treasure trove of help and information,” Martin happily reported.

With all of this attention on the most recent three-way shift at the newspaper, the life and times of Andreas Transo, another Independent-Scout reporter, should be noted.

While Transo continues to play Irish music professionally at venues far and near, he also dabbled in a newspaper career in 2016, when he served as a reporter for the Edgerton Reporter.