A fond farewell
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.