As anyone who has started a new job knows, the learning curve the first few days is almost vertical.
(For instance, how to update the web page, which is why it wasn’t updated until last weekend. Blame the new guy.)
This is my first official issue as editor of The Platteville Journal. Those interested can read my autobiographical information in the Opinion section at swnews4u.com, including all my Grant County ties, beginning with my mother, a native of Boscobel. She met my father — who grew up in Richland Center — in, of course, Madison, which became my hometown. I am married to a Grant County farmer’s daughter, thanks to the obvious way for a newspaper reporter to meet people — interview them for newspaper stories.
So how did my first week go? Clearly I met, more or less, the press deadlines, otherwise you would not be reading this. I arrived at the office Wednesday afternoon, where I was immediately told that I did not look like my photo on page 1 of last week’s Journal. I’m not sure what that means.
Late that first afternoon, I decided to take a walk. You’ll find me wandering around downtown and possibly farther often, because thinking is a physical process, and the brain is an organ, therefore exercise stimulates the brain.
The walk took me past the Platteville Fire Department. I indulged my inner seven-year-old by sticking my head up to the window to see the fire trucks. A firefighter inside invited me inside, where I met several other firefighters and was told that the Citizens Academy graduation was that night. So I decided to cover it, which was a good decision because I got to meet UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields, City Manager Larry Bierke, Police Chief Doug McKinley and EMS Administrator Brian Adams. The results are on page 1B and online.
I did not get a chance to meet Fire Chief Dave Izzard Wednesday. I got to meet him Friday morning to get some information about the early Friday morning fire. Then I got to meet him again Friday afternoon at the Fire Department’s second fire of the calendar day, a photo of which can be found on page 1. Another way to put that is: I went to a baseball game, and a fire broke out.
Publisher John Ingebritsen’s reaction was: “News just seems to follow you.”
Or precede me, perhaps. Having read a few editions of The Journal before I started at 25 E. Main St. (specifically the newspaper-filled cubicle midway through the office on the east side), I can see that I will certainly not lack things to write about.
One thing I’ve found in talking to people is that there is a lot of respect for the work my predecessor, Dan Wackershauser, did at The Journal. (And you will probably notice his byline remaining in this newspaper, though for a different employer.) Dan, sports editor Jason Nihles, account representative Ann Rupp, ad designer Carol Tyson, bookkeeper/receptionist Shirley Thalmann and everyone else involved in bringing you The Platteville Journal each week has been doing good and necessary work well before I showed up at the office. (One piece of evidence: 20 Wisconsin Newspaper Association awards since 2004.) Rule number one for the new editor thus is: Don’t screw it up.
Wisconsin has 13 UW four-year universities as well as 20 private colleges. And yet Wisconsin has fewer college towns than the sum of those two numbers. Ripon, where we’ve lived for 13 years, is a college town, which I define as a place where the college is central to the town’s identity. So is Platteville. When you think of Platteville, you think of UW–Platteville, in the same way that when you think of Ripon, you think of Ripon College.
If you read the announcement of the new editor last week, you know I have my own opinion blog, steveprestegard.com. (Warning: Strong opinions that may disagree with yours found within.) I’ve been writing opinions for my entire professional life. One of my favorite books about journalism is David Brinkley’s memoir, Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion. I believe any newspaper worth the name should have an opinion section with well-reasoned opinions therein. You have every right to agree or disagree, in part or in full, with anything on this page, although we should all attempt to be civil about our disagreements where they occur.
What you read in the opinion sections of The Journal and my corner of swnews4u.com won’t necessarily parallel what I’ve been writing at my own blog. Readers of The Platteville Journal are interested in knowing about what’s going on in southwest Wisconsin. They are not necessarily interested in knowing the editor’s opinion on, say, presidential or state politics, except as presidential or state politics (or any other issue) affects southwest Wisconsin. (Which will happen in less than one month.)
What you read in this space will also be separate from the news coverage of The Journal. The news pages — that is, every page except for 4A and pages with full-page ads — are to report the news. If that news includes opinions, those are the opinions of the principals in a particular story. This space will be my perspective, and not necessarily anyone else’s, about what’s happening.
When I started at the Grant County Herald Independent in Lancaster in 1988, Grant and Lafayette counties had seven newspapers owned by six different people. All seven of those newspapers are now owned by one company, and yet they still exist as separate publications today. Other media companies in similar markets have merged newspapers or even closed them. This company believes the printed word is important, and that the information the Journal brings to its readers every week is worth its investment. I hope you think your investment in the Journal as a reader and an advertiser is important.