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A Farewell

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Dear Readers, This is my last month as editor of the Riverwest Currents, so this is a goodbye of sorts. I’m not leaving the city or the neighborhood, but I am moving on to new editorial challenges and opportunities. It is not without sadness that I leave the Currents, even though working on it has been a wild ride at times. Helping plan this publication in December of 2001 with Vince Bushell, we were full of ideas about what we wanted to accomplish and who we might tap to write articles. But that was about the extent of it. We’ve come a long way since then, and as ad manager Tess Reiss likes to say, “we’re making it up as we go along.” I think we’ve done a pretty good job of making it up, and I like how the paper has evolved over the last two and a half years. I’m sure you will see it continue to evolve under new coordinating editor Jan Christensen and production assistant editor Carrie Trousil next month. I am a strong believer in community journalism and its importance. In an editorial on April 2004 (see the website archives if you’d like to read it), I explained that a driving philosphy behind this paper is that it is good to live and work and be involved in your immediate community. People who live in Milwaukee neighborhoods care and want to know what’s going on right where they live; they care about what’s local. When you tell people who their neighbors are, what’s happening nearby, and how decisions are being made, they will be empowered and better able to participate in public life and the democratic process. Reflecting on my time at the Riverwest Currents, I have a great appreciation for the experiences I have had and the people I’ve worked with as I grew into my role. It’s a rare thing in the world of journalism to have the good fortune of editing (and reporting for) a community-focused publication with a team of people who truly care about what they’re doing. They’re not doing it — none of them — for the money, because there’s not a lot there. They’re not putting out a “product,” and the primary goal is not to lure in advertisers. They’re doing it because they have something to say and because they care about the place where they live. I believe that gives this publication a tremendous amount of credibility and integrity. Basing all of our operations out of about 100 square feet in an office we share with the Riverwest Co-op has lent itself to some real bonding experiences — imagine three or four people crammed into half a small room until well past midnight several times during production week, throw in a few Lakefront Riverwest Steins, and you can start to imagine what it was like. And maybe you’ll understand and forgive some of those typos that seemed to slip through despite our best intentions… More than 30 of us put together the paper every month, including writers, photographers, designers, interns, consultants, and web, sales, and distribution people. I’m thankful for everyone’s dedication. Helene Feider, our tireless and dedicated layout and design director, has been an incredible work partner. She is also leaving after this issue. Her “side project” has more than doubled in size, and she had to balance a full time job while working on the Currents during every spare hour for the last 10-12 days of each month. She will continue to play a role by helping the new layout director and in other capacities. I have been blessed to work with a publisher who has given me almost free reign with editorial control and decision-making power — something that is rare in today’s publishing world where profit tends to drive coverage. Even in instances where we have disagreed, Vince has ultimately recognized my editorial capability to make the tough decisions. I respect that greatly, and I value the autonomy I’ve enjoyed. Tess Reiss, our ad manager, has done tremendous things with the advertising growth of the publication, working with a great team of sales people to support the work we do. Dan Knauss, our webmaster — who also happens to be my husband — has done an amazing job and put many hours into a top-notch website that serves as many people monthly (based on unique user counts, not just hits) as the printed newspaper does. Not to mention the slack he has picked up at home and with our girls and the crazy hours he put up with to support me in this work. The many writers who contribute to this paper lend it their own unique voice and distinct flavor. I am especially proud of columns like the “The View From Here” and the commentaries we offer. The Currents provides a valuable public forum for expression. I am thankful for our faithful advertisers, because they make it possible for us to survive. They’re also smart — they know it’s good business to support the publication that supports them. We have always been advocates for small local businesses and for spending money locally to boost neighborhood economies. We often have readers tell us that when they need to make a service or spending decision, they look first to see if any of our advertisers offer what they’re looking for. I urge you to look closely at the ads we carry this election season to find out which candidates really care about the “little people” — the neighborhoods, their grassroots constituents. I know I’ll be looking; it matters to me who cares enough about city neighborhoods to reach out to our readers. As you read these words, I’m settling into my new job as assistant editor of the new free weekly publication the Journal Sentinel is launching in October. Keep an eye out for it, and take advantage of the variety of publications, large and small, that we enjoy in Milwaukee.