Neighborhood blog to continue hyper-focus
What do you give the neighborhood that has everything? Well certainly not another person with an opinion. When you start a blog, its like any good essay, pick a few central themes and nurture them with attribution and reasoned analysis. But it is no small challenge to write about by far the most engaged, opinionated, funky, and cool neighborhood in the nation.
Willy Street Blog was born in March 2012, in the midst of the recall drive, but soon turned away from state politics as plenty of great voices were already speaking to the issue. In a city that features stupendous local reporting from numerous outlets, why should anyone bother to read some random blog?
The key is to really not care.
To prime the pump, a few recall related items were written along with some long form pieces related to my youth such as “Making Sex Ed Like They Used To“, my personal connection to the Sarah Gonstead murder case and a lemonade purveying terrorist.
From an early age the neighborhoods that currently define District 6 (Marquette, Schenk Atwood Starkweather Yahara and Darbo-Worthington) have all shared in the formation of my perspectives. It was important to make sure coverage was contiguous and not limited by perceptive or geographic barriers.
It was inevitable that the blog would gravitate to the public affairs of the neighborhood, where I feel it is most purposeful. Water quality has been a struggle in SASY, as has the development of Union Corners. Last year’s District 6 Alder race was congenial until a dark money mailer in the days before the election roiled residents; as did the potential closing of rail crossings.
Central Park is starting to grow as is the possibility of a grocery store on East Washington Avenue. Also unresolved are the fit and form of the Orton Park Festival and that empty parking lot at 722 Williamson street.
A young man struggling with a failed relationship and addiction was shot by a neighborhood-based police officer struggling to find his own balance between policy and discretion.
The neighborhood has been off-balance ever since and last week the area sustained it’s second gun death in 17 months.
In searching for a niche, the blog covered all types of subjects including a review of an Elton John concert, a story about the mural on the side of the Willy Street Co-op, live storytelling, tree-borne artists and of course the festivals.
Orton, Waterfront, La Fete, and Willy Street Fair are faithfully chronicled, through the prism of my own historical experiences. In my mind that longer-toothed perspective is a central pillar of the blog’s relevancy.
As the blog evolved, my efforts turned to telling the stories of the neighborhood in a way other outlets didn’t have the space to tell. The phoenix-like success of the neighborhood over the last five decades is told in the back stories of the neighborhood kids and talented restauranteurs who have opened new eateries like Grampa’s Pizzeria, One Barrel Brewing, Star Bar and A Pig In A Fur Coat.
Sprinkled in amongst all of this is my other passion and paymaster, aviation. This career/hobby brings both high-level thrills like sharing the experience of flying in the rarest of airworthy bombers with the rarest of pilots and lows like losing a friend with whom I will miss sharing the air.
One of my favorite pieces was explaining the six degrees of Madison and musicians Otis Redding, part of Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Denver and JFK Jr.; and why airplanes weren’t to blame for their deaths.
In a past life I was a public radio reporter and feature stories was my love. Early in 2012 I concluded a stint managing an online news operation for a national non-profit which included managing a blog for a nationally-known aviation columnist. The blog portion proved especially fun as I once used photos I took of a civil war enactment to illuminate a discussion about weather fronts. With continued motivation to write, the “born and raised” credentials, and the all-important “lived elsewhere” perspective; Willy Street seemed like the best place to try this fancy blogging thingy for myself.
I have only a few central motivations, chief among them was to find the best way to contribute to the continued vibrancy of the neighborhood in the strong tradition of my parents and their contemporaries.
A few thank yous
To the neighborhoods, people and institutions who have welcomed my reporting and trusted that the blog will present the chosen subjects fairly and with unique texture.
I am also appreciative of local reporters, the true “working press”, who have referenced Willy Street Blog in their own reporting. The collaboration with Dane101.com will be missed.
And thanks to my faithful volunteer copy editor as well as my web team for structural support and web design; you know who you are.
The mission of Willy Street Blog is to provide illumination that may help in driving dialog. For those who feel this post is mostly self-congratulatory, it is slightly that.
But the blog is not a daily news site, nor the definitive source for neighborhood undercurrents. Additionally, it can be difficult at times to cover this dynamic neighborhood when employment related activities take place entirely on the east coast. So…
…this post is also a call to others to join in writing about the place in which we love to live, work, and play.
Top 5 stories on Willy Street Blog (number of hits)
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