Back from Madison, Wis., and the Detroit Free Press

Dateline: Mon 16 Apr 2007

Lee Enterprises publishes two dailies in Madison, Wis., where I've been recentkly for a long visit with an old friend. A publicly-traded chain with mid-size papers, Lee's philosophy seems focused on providing a quality work environment for employees (so it says on its web site) while maxing out on smart news coverage.

I was surprised at how enjoyable and informative the papers were. Madison was in the throes of a pre-primary frenzy; as one might expect, politics are taken seriously there. On a daily basis, the paper satisfied even the out-of-towner's curiosity about the candidates and the causes. The sense is that the paper is invested in the community, and will go to the mat to inform readers.

This is refreshing, in a day when many of us lament the lack of direction in daily newspapers. On that note, a friend has sent a column from the Metro Times, Detroit's alternative paper. The story concerns the death of longtime Detroit Free Press publisher and m.e. Neal Shine, a mostly beloved figure in journalism. Much of the gist is how poorly the papers have fared under Gannett.

Note to sensitive readers -- I'm always amazed how sensitive reporters are when it comes to their own careers -- this is not a criticism of the writers or working editors anywhere. This is simply a reminder that there are better ways to run a paper than Gannett does.

Here's the link:

http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=10390

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