Four years and a new day

By - Dec 1st, 2006 02:52 pm
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Dear Readers,

This issue of VITAL marks the beginning of my fifth year as Editor. That, for the record, is longer than I’ve held any post-college job. I’ve mentioned before how I ended up here by accident at a time when I needed a new start, an opportunity to see what I was really made of.

One’s perception of time is a funny, stretchy, contorted and contracted thing. On the one hand we’ve been barreling down the road at 90 miles per hour. On the other, I look at pictures of myself at my original “desk” in the storage room in the back of Bremen Café and can barely recall who I was then. I looked different (long hair, heavier, less gray), felt different (scared, excited, supremely daring) and had a different set of concerns than the woman who now resides at the big desk with the comfy chair in our groovy storefront office suite on Bremen Street. In late 2002 I was on a mission from God (to quote Elwood Blues) to bring VITAL to the people, the overwhelming majority of whom remained blissfully unconcerned with the efforts of our ragtag staff of interns and volunteers. In a way, times were simple then. And the statistical impossibility of our quest was almost comforting – who would ever blame us if we failed?

Things are different now, and that’s an understatement. In four years, we have more than tripled our circulation, flipped from a tabloid to a magazine, created a truly good website that attracts readers from all over the world (check it out if you haven’t), developed partnerships in the community, gained a loyal (and, in a measure of our long-term potential, also a casual) readership and have seen many of our writers and photographers move on to tremendous opportunities that wouldn’t have been as available to them if not for their work at VITAL. I am gratefully the president of the Milwaukee Press Club, the oldest continuously operating press club in the Americas, and one of the nation’s finest. My parents are proud of me, not just for my potential, but because I’ve done something. In a way, it’s like living a dream.

But with a measure of success comes exponential pressure and responsibility. There are more constituencies to satisfy, from the employees who need to get paid on time to the readers and city leaders who now expect that we actually produce something worthwhile. I even have a dress code for meetings and Press Club functions. Sometimes I bring a suit and change out of my cowboy boots in the bathroom for business functions. Who would have thought?

On a very microcosmic level, my situation reflects that of the Democrats. (Bear with me; I know this is a gross oversimplification.) They needed a new start. They worked their plan amidst skepticism and even derision (sometimes from me) and they succeeded in taking the Congress. Heady stuff. But what comes next is much more important. Now they must live up to the expectations they themselves created during these last campaigns. Cole White’s “100 hours” (We the People, page 25) details their early plan for the 110th Congress, and it’s rather ambitious. But here in America, ambition is still a good thing and it’s hard to find fault with the primary tenets of the Democrats’ Congressional agenda: campaign and lobbying, healthcare and spending reform are well agreed-upon needs. The war puzzle will be beyond a nightmare to solve for whoever takes it on. There is no one right answer. But I think they know that too, as witnessed by the brain trust led by Jim Baker that now has the Democratic leadership’s ear.

December is a personally, socially and professionally hectic time for most people. But it’s also the time of darkness, preparation and reflection. The coming year offers the opportunity for a new day in so many ways. It’s a time of hope, of possibility, of change – not just for our country, but for each of us in our individual lives. And so I’ll close 2006 on the words of my late grandfather, Bob Ogden: Don’t be afraid to jump on the train while it’s riding fast. You may get the snot knocked out of you, but you won’t regret the new scenery.

Jon Anne

P.S. The name of this column has changed because I now blog on our website, along with some of your favorite VITAL columnists and a few new faces. Read more at

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