Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beginning at the end

Let's begin with a preview of the April 12 Marketplace Magazine:


In print journalism days of old, when a writer was done with a story, he would type “-30-” to indicate to the typesetter when the story was finished, supposedly to tell the typesetter he could take 30 minutes off.

That is the explanation for the headline. The April 12 Marketplace will be the last issue of Marketplace Magazine, which means this is the last Marketplace of Ideas column.

Marketplace hence joins the list that includes Life Magazine, American Mercury (H.L. Mencken’s creation), Brill’s Content (a magazine about the media), Business 2.0, Confidential (which according to Newsweek included “sin and sex with a seasoning of right wing politics”), Inside Sports, Mademoiselle, McCall’s (which my mother read), Mechanix Illustrated, National Lampoon, Omni Magazine, PC Magazine, Photoplay (which my grandmother read), Popular Electronics, Sport magazine, and other magazines that served their purpose and then ended. Other than possibly bad ideas of elected officials, nothing on this earth lasts forever, and change is inevitable.

Marketplace was created for two reasons — to report on business with the kind of depth, breadth, perspective and context (“news readers can use,” as one editor put it) that no publication in the area was providing its readers, and to provide a vehicle for businesses to reach other businesses that could be their customers. Marketplace started by covering essentially the U.S. 41 corridor and as far west as Waupaca and the Ripon/Berlin/Green Lake area, then expanded to the Lakeshore and points north, and then covered Marathon, Portage and Wood counties.

I can be credited or blamed, depending on the reader’s perspective, for reason number three for existence — as a soapbox on behalf of our readers. This column existed because I thought it wasn’t enough to report just what’s going on when some things going on (such as bad ideas coming to fruition in Washington and Madison) were going to negatively affect the readers of Marketplace. That led to negative reactions on the part of some Marketplace readers, but readers are entitled to their opinions.

I was not the first editor of Marketplace, but it may be appropriate that I’m the last editor of Marketplace because my name, for better or worse, is on the largest number of issues of Marketplace as its editor and, for the past year, its publisher. I always considered this the greatest journalism job in Northeast Wisconsin because it allowed me to meet and communicate with people who served their customers, created jobs, and contributed to their communities. The list of outstanding businesses and business owners I’ve met over 10 years — the productive people of Northeast and North Central Wisconsin, the people who make Northeast and North Central Wisconsin a worthwhile place to live, to work, and to own a business — is far too long to include here.

Marketplace sought to highlight the amazing work ethic of Wisconsin workers, the innovation of Northeast and North Central Wisconsin entrepreneurs and business owners, and the quality of life we enjoy here. The readers of Marketplace, for 21½ years, showed a long-term view and long-term optimism by withstanding three recessions, stock market hiccups, ups and downs in their and other industries and geographic areas, the various dumb things government does, and so on, determined to the end that their (present or future) venture will be a success.

I worked with a lot of great people here, including Erica Dakins, whose work for Marketplace — which included cover and other photos, writing and editing, sales assistance and circulation, among the duties I can think of — cannot be summed up by a job title. The highest compliment I can give Erica is that I should have hired her. (I didn’t hire her; she started here a week before I came back.) In case I didn’t mention it in 1994, I am overdue in thanking Mark Karavakis, Marketplace’s first publisher, for hiring me. I thank our account representatives, Marc Hipple and Silvija Fisher, as well as those others listed in our staff listing and those who aren’t for their efforts for Marketplace as well. I also thank the management of Journal Community Publishing Group and Journal Communications for hiring me and then giving an editor a chance to be a publisher as well.

And finally, I thank all our readers for reading, and our advertisers for advertising, for these past 21½ years. I hope Marketplace was worth your investment, in time and otherwise. Farewell.

That is (or will be since this is written two weeks before subscribers get their printed copy) the end of Marketplace. Not the end of me. Since I got word 24 hours ago, I'm still processing being unemployed for the first time since my first day of work May 23, 1988. So other than (I hope) finding meaningful employment, I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

I've been told, and it makes sense, that I should start a blog to maintain the discipline of writing. (Rust is a terrible thing, as anyone who owned a 1970s-era car should know.) And so, here begins, for an indeterminate amount of time, The Presteblog. The Presteblog is likely (though not certain) to read much like Marketplace of Ideas (posted at for an indeterminate amount of time), the opinion column and blog of Marketplace in the 10 years I was the editor of Marketplace. (What else would you call an opinion column in a publication called "Marketplace"?)

The late Marketplace of Ideas blog was usually four days of business/political stuff (and in three years of daily blogging I certainly never lacked for material), along with what I called "Frideas," on subjects that might be found in the Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal -- which included everything from cars to pets to parenting to adult beverages to my sons' Cub Scouting. We'll see if I can maintain that schedule. (I know I will tomorrow, because I had a piece written for tomorrow that, if I may be immodest, was too good to not run somewhere.)

The obvious thing I have to say is that if readers know of someone looking for a writer or editor or media geek with 22 years of experience in this (insert your favorite adjective, printable or not) line of work, email (Résumés, samples, references, etc. available upon request.)

We'll all see where this goes.