Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Journal Sentinel Promotes Long-Gone Writer

Readers urged to read Michael Wolff’s “brutally honest’ column. It hasn’t run in two years.

By - Jan 6th, 2020 01:39 pm
Journal Sentinel ad.

Journal Sentinel ad.

On Sunday the Journal Sentinel, whose display ads have been shrinking for more than a decade, had an ad spot to fill and so it added a promotion for USA Today, whose parent company (Gatehouse-Gannett) also owns the Milwaukee daily. 

The ad was certainly punchy. It featured a photo of writer Michael Wolff, with this come-on: 




No none gives you sharp, brutally honest insights into the world of business quite like USA TODAY’S Michael Wolff.  

Except, to be brutally honest, Wolff hasn’t written a column for USA Today since January 2017. Which, by process of elimination, would mean no one now offers such brutally honest insights in the newspaper. 

Twice a National Magazine award winner, Wolff has long courted controversy, but never more so than with his 2017 book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which was widely praised and condemned for its scathing fly-on-the-wall portrait of Donald Trump, heavily based on off-the- record comments.

Wolff, as a USA Today story on him reported after his book was published, has been a “longtime fixture in New York media circles — with stints at New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Hollywood Reporter, USA TODAY and the Guardian” and “spent most of his career examining the intersection of business, celebrity and media.”

As for that stint at USA Today, Wolff presumably quit the column to concentrate on writing the Trump book. And given the ever shrinking staff and news coverage of USA Today and its many newspapers, it seems unlikely it will ever return.

I emailed JS editor George Stanley for comment and will certainly add his take on this should he ever respond. 

Meanwhile, longtime JS columnist Jim Stingl wrote his farewell column on January 3, with a shoutout to the other veterans leaving the newspaper. Back in early December I wrote about the departure of Stingl and six other veteran journalists at the paper, noting that one other reporter was still likely to go.

That, Stingl revealed, is reporter John Schmid, best known for a watershed series, “Made in China,” co-written with Rick Romell, which documented the massive impact of Chinese trade on Wisconsin’s economy. Schmid was a quirky original, with a knowledge of international economics that led to variable but always notable reporting. 

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5 thoughts on “Back in the News: Journal Sentinel Promotes Long-Gone Writer”

  1. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Sometimes the best reading in the current J/S includes “Today’s Highlight in History” and “On This Day” in the reto “Green Sheet.” My 33 year old son looked askance at the “Green Sheet” once and asked me “Who reads this stuff?” I told him that I read it because it reminds me of important and/or colorful articles that used to be featured in newspapers.

    It doesn’t surprise me that a recent J/S encouraged readers to read something from someone 2 years gone from writing assignments. They have to put out a paper, and they are short on people. People from yesteryear can be handy in this circumstance.

  2. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Correction” I meant to write “retro” as the first word on the second line of the above post. I wrote “reto” – not a word.

  3. George Wagner says:

    I remember reading my first USA Today in 1983. My immediate thought was, “And wasn’t that a long way down.” Pop news. Short articles. Little substance. No wonder Gannett has done the same thing to all the papers they’ve taken over. Too bad a mid sized city like Milwaukee can’t have a more robust newspaper like the Tampa Bay Times.

  4. TransitRider says:

    The original USA Today was heads-and-shoulders above every other newspaper for its sports section (especially for out-of-town teams). There were reports of people buying it at a newsstand, stepping away, removing the red sports section, and immediately dropping the rest in the trash, unread.

    Their old weather page on the back of section 1 (with a half-page color map, and another half-page with forecasts for dozens of cities) was also unique, especially before the internet.

  5. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Along with George Wagner, I also remember my first reading of USA Today in 1983. I was teaching middle school students at MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP at that time. One of the sisters there praised the visual appeal of the paper. I agreed with her on the visual appeal, but I told her that there was not enough news in that product to qualify as a newspaper. Her rejoinder was along the lines that I was either a snob or an elitist. I acknowledged that I could be both of the above, but that I did not see USA Today as the future of newspapers. I was wrong. .

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