A fond farewell

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Leonard Sobczak WiG Pres­i­dent/CEO

Wis­con­sin Gazette pres­i­dent and CEO Leonard Sobczak thanks staff, read­ers and ad­ver­tis­ers for their sup­port over the past nearly nine years.

Over the past nine years, lit­tle has given me as much joy as this beloved pub­li­ca­tion. I looked for­ward with de­light to ev­ery other Thurs­day, when the paper came out. It was a bi­weekly treat.

I would first page through to skim the ar­ti­cles and ad­ver­tis­ers, peruse WigWag and en­joy the col­or­ful graph­ics. From there, I would drill down into the meatier con­tent. I would read the editorials and po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age. Then, I would set­tle down with the arts and en­ter­tain­ment sec­tion, the pet sec­tion and oth­ers.

I was thrilled to be a part of it, to be the per­son mak­ing it pos­si­ble.

I was grate­ful for the pos­i­tive (and some­times neg­a­tive) feed­back. I felt we were doing a sa­cred com­mu­nity ser­vice by pro­vid­ing news and in­for­ma­tion our read­ers might have a hard time find­ing else­where — or not find­ing at all. That feel­ing was borne out by the 90 per­cent pickup-rate of the paper.

Many of our ad­ver­tis­ers were grate­ful for the new cus­tomers they found through their ads in the news­pa­per. Some en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pro­vided us with tes­ti­mo­ni­als. We of­fered a unique au­di­ence that in­cluded large num­bers of peo­ple in­volved in pol­i­tics and civic life — in en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, good-gov­ern­ment groups, im­mi­grant-rights groups, etc. This au­di­ence strongly sup­ported the paper and felt a con­nec­tion with our ad­ver­tis­ers.

Most of our ad­ver­tis­ers ben­e­fited by mak­ing us part of their mar­ket­ing strat­egy. Yet, we strug­gled from the start to se­cure enough ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue to put us in the black. Find­ing ef­fec­tive, com­mit­ted sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives was a prob­lem for most of our his­tory, and it be­came more chal­leng­ing with each pass­ing year.

Our strug­gle was out of sync with the depth of pub­lic ac­cep­tance we re­ceived. We were far more hon­ored by jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sion­als than other non-daily newsprint pub­li­ca­tions in Mil­wau­kee. The Mil­wau­kee Press Club has rec­og­nized us with 31 awards since our first is­sue came out Nov. 19, 2009. The As­so­ci­a­tion of Al­ter­na­tive News­me­dia rec­og­nized us with a first-place award for cover de­sign and an “honor roll” designation for reporting.

Lo­cal pro­gres­sive groups — in­clud­ing Planned Par­ent­hood, Wis­con­sin League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, the Mil­wau­kee LGBT Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and oth­ers — hon­ored us.

We also were very pop­u­lar with read­ers, who con­tin­u­ally com­pli­mented us with ap­pre­cia­tive phone calls, emails and let­ters. Our Face­book page at­tracted more en­gage­ments than that of any other non-daily print pub­li­ca­tion in the Mil­wau­kee and Madi­son ar­eas.

But ex­celling in our work and cul­ti­vat­ing a large, faith­ful read­er­ship did not trans­late into rev­enue. Af­ter much thought, brain­storm­ing and mon­i­tor­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in our in­dus­try, I con­cluded that the re­sis­tance to print ad­ver­tis­ing is firmly en­trenched and un­likely to change — at least in our re­gion — in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Con­ven­tional wis­dom, pro­mul­gated largely in Mil­wau­kee by mar­ket­ing firms and ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies, is that print is dead.

I’m grate­ful to the many ad­ver­tis­ers who part­nered with us — putting faith in our ed­i­to­rial mis­sion and our read­ers’ de­sire to sup­port that mis­sion, they walked arm-in-arm with us.

The joy I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in work­ing with Louis Weis­berg can­not be over­stated. We are of a mind in our think­ing, and he was able to ex­plain that think­ing in a pen­e­trat­ing way and pack­age it in an invit­ing for­mat. I am proud of the work he did — and of his end­less en­thu­si­asm and stamina.

Lisa Neff, our man­ag­ing ed­i­tor and co­founder, over­whelmed me with her ded­i­ca­tion, her su­per-hu­man efficiency, her nev­er­fail­ing good na­ture and her in­tel­li­gence. Work­ing with her showed me what the phrase “nose for news” means. I’ll never fig­ure out how she cul­ti­vated so many great sources in Wis­con­sin while work­ing from Florida.

I heartily thank An­gela Wiegert, our busi­ness man­ager/sales co­or­di­na­tor. With clear-headed think­ing and in­cred­i­ble or­ga­ni­za­tional skills, she kept the en­gines mov­ing smoothly. What­ever needed doing, she jumped in and gave her ev­ery­thing to get it done — and done well.

For eight years, art direc­tor Mau­reen Kane made our paper the best-look­ing newsprint pub­li­ca­tion in Wis­con­sin. She used her artistry and tech­ni­cal skills to en­hance the paper’s read­abil­ity. Her tal­ent is be­hind many of our awards.

Robert Wright, our distribution man­ager, had an easy-go­ing yet un­wa­ver­ing de­pend­abil­ity in mak­ing sure the pa­pers were de­liv­ered cor­rectly. He stayed on top of the time-con­sum­ing record­keep­ing re­quired to en­sure our de­liv­ery sites, paper counts and audit in­for­ma­tion were ac­cu­rate and up to date. Man­ag­ing de­liv­ery peo­ple is among the most dif­fi­cult jobs in this in­dus­try, and he mon­i­tored as many as eight at one time. As­sis­tant ed­i­tor Steve DeLeers brought us a wealth of knowl­edge about nearly ev­ery­thing, no mat­ter how ob­scure, and an abil­ity to turn con­fus­ing drafts into fluid sto­ries that car­ried read­ers from be­gin­ning to end. His ea­gle eye for ty­pos and other mis­takes saved us from em­bar­rass­ment with ev­ery is­sue. He could spot an ex­tra space from across the room.

Mike Hol­loway, our as­sis­tant ed­i­tor/ mu­sic ed­i­tor, was bring­ing us a whole new set of read­ers and fans. His in­ti­mate knowl­edge of Mil­wau­kee’s fast-grow­ing mu­sic scene helped draw at­ten­tion to tal­ented mu­si­cians who don’t nor­mally get much press. Al­though he hasn’t been with us

To you, our read­ers: Thank you for your feed­back and for in­clud­ing us among your sources for news and lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment. First and fore­most, this pub­li­ca­tion ex­isted for you. With ev­ery de­ci­sion we made, you were up­per­most in our minds.

long, he jumped into his job with vigor and ded­i­ca­tion. His fo­cus and hard work in­spired all of us.

In a free­lance ca­pac­ity, Joey Gri­halva launched our ef­forts to pro­vide qual­ity reporting on the lo­cal mu­sic scene, and I am thank­ful for his thought-pro­vok­ing cov­er­age and uniquely read­able writ­ing style. I also want to ac­knowl­edge the con­tri­bu­tions of arts writer Michael Muck­ian and colum­nist

Jamakaya, both of whom did award-win­ning work for us. They con­trib­uted greatly to the stature of our brand, and we were lucky to have them for more than seven of our nine years.

I also must ac­knowl­edge Kat Kneev­ers, who cov­ered vis­ual art for us un­til this year. Her deep knowl­edge of art his­tory and of Mil­wau­kee’s thriv­ing com­mu­nity of gal­leries and mu­se­ums made her essential reading for vis­ual art en­thu­si­asts. She was our am­bas­sador to that world.

Kayleigh Nor­ton, our long-stand­ing ac­count ex­ec­u­tive, gave a so­phis­ti­cated, in­tel­li­gent face to our sales depart­ment. She crafted close re­la­tion­ships with our ad­ver­tis­ers, main­tain­ing ac­counts with her warmth and gen­uine con­cern for their suc­cess.

Brian Mu­larksi, our newest ac­count ex­ec­u­tive, was un­daunted by the chal­lenges of the job. In the short time he was with us, he was fear­less and re­lent­less in pur­su­ing new busi­ness. We wish we had found him sooner.

And also, here’s a shout out to our cur­rent de­liv­ery driv­ers: Jen­nifer Sch­mid, Paul Anderson, Con­nie Cortez, Eric See­bacher,

Jason Gornow­icz, Tina De­laluz and Heather Shef­buch. Their com­mit­ment — rem­i­nis­cent of the U.S. Postal Ser­vice motto, “Nei­ther snow nor rain nor gloom of night” — in­spired me when I saw them faith­fully load­ing their ve­hi­cles ev­ery other Thurs­day morn­ing.

I’m grate­ful for my part­ner Dave Pionke.

With­out his sup­port, I never could have jug­gled the many de­mands in­volved in run­ning East­more Real Es­tate and WiG si­mul­ta­ne­ously. He was in­dis­pens­able in help­ing to or­ga­nize our an­nual booth at PrideFest, and he al­ways looked for ways to help wher­ever he could.

With­out the hun­dreds of busi­nesses that al­lowed us to dis­trib­ute our pa­pers in their stores, the­aters, restau­rants, cof­fee shops and other es­tab­lish­ments, we couldn’t have ex­isted. They all de­serve recog­ni­tion for their com­mit­ment to lo­cal jour­nal­ism.

Lastly, to you, our read­ers: Thank you for your feed­back and for in­clud­ing us among your sources for news and lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment. First and fore­most, this pub­li­ca­tion ex­isted for you. With ev­ery de­ci­sion we made, you were up­per­most in our minds.

There is noth­ing more con­stant than change. With that in mind, we close this chap­ter.

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