After spending two decades trying to convince readers that I’m just joking around, I won’t blame you if you don’t take this announcement seriously. I’m leaving the newspaper.
Next week, I’ll start a new job coordinating tourism and marketing for the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce. While I’ll work closely with the newspaper and other media outlets to promote the Baraboo area’s many delights, I’ll no longer write news stories or columns.
I apologize to readers who now may have to look a bit harder to find the latest news about strange objects doctors retrieve from emergency patients’ rear ends.
The world is a weird place, and for 20-plus years I’ve enjoyed exploring the lighter side of the news. Stupid criminals, wayward politicians and Florida residents have provided an ample supply of fodder.
Many of you have let me know I’m not the only one who appreciates a chuckle amid all the troubling headlines. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. Especially if you have something sharp wedged up your butt.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my nine loyal readers, as well as the dozens of you who have taken me aside to tell me I should add you to the roster and push my fan club’s membership into double digits.
Also, thanks (sort of) to readers who have told me things like, “I read your column sometimes.” As in, “It’s good enough to read every now and then, but I’m not going to make a habit of it or anything.” Another favorite: “Your stuff is kind of funny.” Thanks, kind of.
Oh well, I’ve won some and lost some. Longtime readers may recall my column’s Susan Lucci-esque run of second- and third-place finishes in the state newspaper contest a decade ago. But more recently, presumably after the more talented columnists left the business, I’ve won six of the past eight years. You might say I’m going out on top, if by “on top” you mean “praying someone does something dumb this week so I have something to write about.”
It isn’t easy to leave newspapering.
After all, I got my start at age 10 when I went halfsies with my parents on a typewriter (Google that word, kids) and cranked out a family newsletter titled the Bromley Blab. Aunts and uncles were thrilled to read about my latest baseball card acquisitions, not to mention riveting Q&As featuring one-word answers from my siblings.
BEN: Do you want this interview to end?
I’m still waiting for a call from the Pulitzer Prize committee on that one.
A few years later, as a high school senior, I launched an underground newspaper that earned me a trip to the principal’s office. It did not earn me any money. This was a valuable early lesson in the realities of print journalism.
The next year, I was in college studying journalism, and after a brief stint at a weekly in Minnesota where I really should’ve been writing in Norwegian, I landed in this small town north of Madison where I didn’t know a soul.
I figured I’d stay in Baraboo three to five years. Twenty-two years later, here I still am. It’s funny what happens while you’re distracted, researching why some guy in Florida woke up without pants inside an alligator sanctuary.
Baraboo is an above-average small town, one whose charms won’t be hard to sell on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.
It has the beauty of Devil’s Lake, the circus legacy of the Ringling brothers and a thriving downtown historical district. It took just the right opportunity — working with an outstanding organization on behalf of a special community — to pull me from my keyboard. (A box of Ho-Hos also would’ve worked, but don’t tell the Chamber that.)
Thanks to each of you for reading my work and for supporting local journalism. To my nine-plus loyal readers, I say farewell. It’s been a pleasure entertaining you. Seriously.