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Creating an annual bucket list

February 20, 2014

I turned 27 earlier this month. Like most birthdays after 21, the day rolled in quietly and left without much fanfare.
I got a free coffee in celebration at Caribou Coffee in Lake Geneva, and a few friends and family members gave me some nice birthday cards.

Building a house of worship

February 20, 2014

The efforts of ordinary people cannot be underestimated. Examples of such effort are all around, whether all the details are evident or not. And such efforts deserve to be recognized.
An example of this kind of efforts was celebrated Jan. 12, with an open house marking the relocation of Immanuel Lutheran Church from 1229 Park Row in Lake Geneva to 700 N. Bloomfield Road, to a brand new church building, made possible by the efforts of ordinary people, the community they live in and the prayers of people in many places in the world.


Recent Commentary
Reporter hears readers at resident roundtable
February 13, 2014

I wasn’t hoping for much when I set up a meet-and-greet at the Walworth Public Library on Feb. 5.
Maybe the librarian would join me for coffee and we would talk about how people were too busy these days.
Instead, I was surprised by nine guests, all with opinions on Geneva Lake West and all readers of the Regional News. Mention of another paper did come up at one point, but it wasn’t very complimentary.
Not to brag, but no one had any serious complaints about how the west end of the lake is covered.
Big Foot High School’s return to referendum was a touchy subject for some, as most of the group no longer had children in school.
School budgets and tax levies are tough subjects to cover. These are important stories to write about because people in the district need to know, but concrete answers are hard to find.
In the most recent article about the referendum and school finances, Big Foot District Administrator Dorothy Kaufmann said the district faces so many unknowns in preparing a budget.
“I think they’ve done a good job teaching the kids,” Ann Catlow said. “But I don’t think they’ve done enough to reach out to nonparents in the district. I don’t think the newspaper has explained the impact to nonparents. We all have to pay the property taxes. I think most people will vote against it, honestly.”
Art Anderson said he is always curious about property tax rates.
“We have to keep paying them,” he said. “Even with state taxes going down, it seems like local taxes continue to increase.”
From Big Foot, the group’s discussion turned to the elementary school and the school board’s fight against planned Highway 14 changes.
Village Trustee Kent Johnson was at the informal meeting, and he said he doesn’t understand the school’s position.
“The fact that the highway will be moved closer to the school seems to be the school’s key issue,” Johnson said. “Well, it’s that close to the library here, and there isn’t a problem. Darien and Sharon schools both have highways very close. There aren’t these problems there that the (school) board says will happen here.”
Johnson said the state DOT has voted down a bypass of the village several times.
“The Antique Mall will be torn down regardless of which reroute of the highway (is made),” he said. “It’s supposed to move by December of this year.”
Trudy Schubert, local author and volunteer baker for the meeting, said she’d miss the store on the corner of Main and Beloit streets.
“The park, too, I love the park,” she said. “It’s small enough as it is without taking more away from it.”
Johnson said the Rotary Club’s Corn and Brat Festival may move from Heyer Park in Walworth to Fontana’s Reid Park.

“I heard last year’s was supposed to be the last here in Walworth,” he said. “I’m not sure if they’re moving or not.”
It’s clear that the park and the village square are integral parts of this community. The square holds a charm for residents who are attached to Walworth.
To improve the paper, Catlow suggested more event listings, before they happen.
“So often, I see a photo of something that has already happened,” she said. “Well, I would have gone, if I had known about it.”
Catlow said she would like to see a calendar in the Geneva Lake West section, something she can tear out of the paper when she gets it on Wednesday and stick on her fridge for the week.
I used to cringe when I heard about people tearing pieces from the newspapers I worked on. But it’s really a way to save a bit of the work I did.
Not everyone can save the whole newspaper like I do every week. At least one little clip gets weeklong fame.
There’s a calendar of events is this week’s issue for the west end of the lake. I hope it makes it to at least a couple refrigerator doors. Along with the calendar, the group asked me to reach out to more local civic group leaders for information. If you’re a leader of a group, like the 4-H or the Rotary or the American Legion, and you have a report to give, send it our way.
We’ll do our best to ensure information makes it to the readers. I don’t know if the Regional News will host similar events in the future, though I had a good time. Before the meeting officially started, I heard some gossip that I can’t share here. Everyone at the table had the same goal: to keep the community alive and active. I hope the Regional News keeps the community informed.
Special thanks to the Walworth Public Library for their gracious hosting of the event. We overwhelmed their small space.

Jade Bolack is a reporter for the Lake Geneva Regional News.


Columns, content and community
February 06, 2014

Here’s what I think a Community and Commentary section — the one you’re holding in your hand — should be and the direction it’s growing:
1. The Community and Commentary pages emphasize opinions and contributions by staff members and the public.
2. The label “community” implies content that provides a local flavor — which isn’t necessarily news or opinion.
3. The label “commentary” or anything with a column “logo” or marked as a “letter” indicates that the opinions expressed are the opinions of the author.
4. We don’t run editorials in the traditional sense. We won’t hide behind the editorial “we.” The editor’s opinions are the editor’s opinions and not necessarily those of others on the newspaper. The belief that any editorial is an expression of the newspaper is a myth. Newspapers are inanimate objects and can’t have opinions. The only way to make that claim is to take a vote and I’ve never been on a newspaper where people can agree on much of anything. The fact is that on most newspapers the “editorial” is actually developed by an elite group of people who answer to someone else who has the final say anyway.
5. I believe the prime job of a newspaper is to show both sides of an issue and let the reader decide. That doesn’t mean I won’t have opinions, but I’ll try to present them in such a way that the reader can see the other side as well. It was something I learned in debate — in order to make your point effectively you need to truly understand the other perspective. This deviation from the hyper aggressive editorials some people savor is a growing trend in newspapers. It’s also a reflection of the editor’s less-than hyper aggressive personality. On the other hand, the editor — that would be me — reserves the right to foam at the mouth should the occasion warrant it. Strong opinions nourish a newspaper and sometimes I’ve been remiss in not having more of them; I’ll try to do better.
6. We won’t run anonymous opinions or letters to the editor. You should have the courage of your convictions. Each letter needs to be signed and a city address included. We also need a phone number or email address in case we need to verify the letter or ask questions, but that information won’t appear in the paper. In general, we only run letters written by people with local connections.
7. Yes, we run some opinions that may be deemed as crazy. It’s been my experience that crazy ideas die faster when they’re shown in the light of day. If the expression of those ideas is resisted, then the teller of those tales enjoys martyrdom. And, there’s always a chance, they may be right. After all, the idea that the world was an orb circling around the sun was once considered insane.
8. We don’t have special rules regarding word limits or numbers of times someone can contribute. The editor reserves the right to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis. Some of our contributions run overly long and it’s my hope to edit them more this year.
9. We’ll try not to run libelous statements in letters or, we hope, anywhere else. You may think it’s the truth, but we need facts to back it up. And, in a lawsuit, the paper is as financially responsible as you are. We don’t have time to verify every opinion you may have. We make such choices based on their news value and the practicality of verification.
9. There is more leeway with commentary on public officials or public figures. For the most part, they’re not subject to traditional libel laws and criticisms come with the territory. Like everything else in the paper, we reserve the right to edit out particularly venomous or tasteless comments.
10. We resist writing editor’s notes on letters to the editor. The writer should get the final say in their letter. Again, we reserve that right but don’t plan to use it. We also reserve the right to disagree with the writer but in a separate forum. Excluding changes for style, grammar, spelling or obvious “mistakes’ we won’t change the content of a letter without contacting the author.
11. We encourage criticisms of the newspaper. They make for good reading.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.


When you can only agree to disagree
January 30, 2014

We get our share of angry phone calls.
Every newspaper does. It comes with the territory.

The day racism KO'd a champ
January 23, 2014

Monday was a quiet day in Lake Geneva.
The mail wasn’t delivered and government offices were closed.
For most of us, those were the most tangible signs that it was Martin Luther King Day.
With the exception of Lake Ivanhoe, 10 minutes to our east, there isn’t much to tie the Lake Geneva area to African-American history.
Sadly, though, Lake Geneva is responsible for two historical footnotes that paint a less than positive picture of our mostly white community.
One of course, is Lake Ivanhoe, a community created, in part, according to the Racine Journal Times, as a recreational area for blacks in an era when Lake Geneva was less than welcoming.
The other claim to historical notoriety, is the story about how famed African-American boxer Joe Louis was turned away from the city.
That story dates back to the summer of 1937.
On April 29 of that year the Lake Geneva Regional News proudly announced that “Joe Louis Will Begin Training Here On May 1.”
The subhead read: “Camp Site Selection Given Final Confirmation.”
The story went on to say that Louis’ manager was coming to town that very day to finalize plans.
Inside there was a photo captioned: “Brown Bomber Coming Here.”
The training headquarters for what would be Louis’ first championship fight were to be established at the city softball field. An arena and showers were to be built.
The expectation was that there would be thousands of spectators and that concession sales would help defray costs.

“Every detail connected with the undertaking of such a stupendous proposition as bringing the training camp to Lake Geneva has been thoroughly gone into … and overwhelmingly endorsed,” the story said, without attributing such glowing optimism to anyone in particular.
“Practically every avenue of possible complication has been discussed,” the story said.
Apparently, “practically” was the operative word.
In the next edition of the paper, dated May 6, a headline read: “Louis Camp Plans Still Unconfirmed.”
That story seemed to blame the confusion on Louis. “…whether or not the agreement with Lake Geneva is to be honored, is still in doubt,” the story said.
One week later, on May 13, the paper reported briefly on a recent chamber of commerce meeting. “Following the regular business meeting, the details concerning why the Joe Louis camp was not established in Lake Geneva were discussed.”
But, those “details” weren’t revealed in that issue. Or the next. Or any other issue we could find.
The only other mention in the Regional News was in an inside page of that May 13 issue stating that the camp would be in Kenosha instead of Lake Geneva.
But, according to a historical feature in the Kenosha News from 2012, written by reporter Diane Giles, the issues were apparently too uncomfortable for the local paper to cover.
“The mayor of Lake Geneva and officials with the chamber of commerce wanted Louis to train in their city,” Giles wrote. “The merchants had voted 109-5 to invite Louis there. They began soliciting funds with a goal of $5,000 to offer Louis in exchange for establishing a training camp there.”
But not everyone was happy.
“A homeowners’ group, the Lake Geneva Protective Association, sent a letter to a Chicago newspaper stating that Lake Geneva was an exclusive resort, not open to the public,” Giles wrote.
She explained that it was “during a time when most of western Kenosha County had locked out African Americans from property ownership through covenants with homeowner groups.”
“The association threatened to refuse to patronize merchants who contributed to the fund,” Giles wrote. “That got the merchants running scared, and they dropped their campaign to bring Louis there.”
A story in a Pittsburgh paper expanded on the issue.
Calling Louis “the colored challenger,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said that the local challenge to Louis came from George Hotten, secretary of the Lake Geneva Home Owners’ Protective Association.
“Merchants were informed members of the association would refuse to patronize them if they contributed to the fund,” the story said.
As a result, the camp for the man who would become one of the greatest boxing champions ever was not located in Lake Geneva.
Instead, it opened in Kenosha that May 11. More than 20,000 spectators paid 55 cents to $1.10 each to watch Louis train. Louis won that championship fight and held onto the crown for another 11 years, defending the title a record 25 times.
So, as we celebrate a holiday created to recognize Martin Luther King’s efforts toward racial harmony, we dare not forget a day that should live in infamy for our fair city.
The day when Lake Geneva put Joe Louis down for the count.


To frozen heroes and free jump starts
January 16, 2014

Here’s to all the heroes of the evening of Jan. 6 and 7.
And in particular, here’s to one hero of the early morning hours of Jan. 7 who got my car started. For free.
According to the Weather Underground website, (my favorite for local temperatures) the air was down to a right chilly minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit.
Holy cow.
With the windchill, it felt like minus 31.
Holy Cow!
I realize people have to work those freezing, night-time hours. Utility crews drove around the city keeping an eye on the essential connections of modern civilization.
Police officers were on patrol. Firefighters were prepared in case they were needed. (Lake Geneva firefighters weren’t needed Monday night or early Tuesday, but they were called out to a working fire in the town of Geneva on Sunday, when it was at least as cold.)
I’m sure tow truck operators throughout Walworth County put in yeoman’s work on that cold, blustery, slippery day, pulling cars out of ditches and recharging batteries.
But most of us don’t think of those knights of the road, until we need one.
Managing Editor Rob Ireland and I worked until 11 p.m. Monday. We left the office at the same time, got into our cars the same time. His car started.
Mine, well, I’ll give it another crank. I’ll give it another crank. I’ll try it again. Hey, this ain’t working.
I desperately looked to my left to see Rob’s car make a right turn at Dodge Street. I went back into the office.
Just after 11 p.m., I started calling local tow truck operators at the end of one of their coldest, busiest days so far this winter. Enthusiasm was lacking.
One just had its answering machine on. At another I got a human voice. A very, very weary human voice.
“Sorry to bother you,” I said. “My car won’t start. Can you help?”
“I don’t think so,” came the muffled, very, very tired reply.
At Larry’s Towing, I got a human voice. It will take 90 minutes, he said.
What choice, did I have?
Mind you, the stress of my car not starting was psychological, not physical. I was in a heated office with access to coffee and a snack machine. I was not freezing or starving.
My car was parked on a city street, not stuck in a ditch.
I also live just two blocks from work. I could have walked home if absolutely necessary.
But I didn’t want to walk home in this cold. And I didn’t want to leave my car parked on Broad Street, because it would have been arrested for vagrancy and towed away and I would have had to bail it out of car jail for a ridiculous amount of money.
I hunkered down with a cup of reheated coffee and bag of cookies from the snack machine
The hero arrived in a Larry’s tow truck. Ninety minutes my eye. It took him only 45 minutes.

His coat was heavy enough to qualify as body armor, his woolen cap was pulled down over his eyes, and he wore industrial-strength work shoes.
As he groped around the frozen edges of the hood of my car, trying to find the interior hood latch, I noticed he wasn’t wearing gloves.
Ho-Lee Cow!
I made a comment about him being a better man than I was, even as my fingers were freezing inside my Thinsulate-protected gloves.
“Oh, that’s OK,” he replied. “I’ve been in and out all day.”
I thought the car suffered from gas line freeze. The Larry’s guy took my car key and gave it a try.
“Your battery’s kinda old,” he said. He got a charger from his tow truck, hooked it up with ungloved hands to my kinda-old battery and got the engine to start.
My cup runneth over.
I invited him into the office to warm up with a reheated cup of coffee (it’s all I had. I’d eaten all the cookies.) I offered to pay him double for his troubles.
He said no thanks to all of it. He wouldn’t take a fee for his trouble. I got free service.
HO-LEE COW!!
Apparently, the Regional News had run some “negative news” about Larry’s in the past, the unnamed hero said. Maybe I could write something positive about Larry’s, he added.
I’m payin’ the bill right now, big guy.
And thanks again.

Chris Schultz is a reporter for the Lake Geneva Regional News.


Making a better Regional News, controversy, compliments
January 09, 2014
Iíve received several comments regarding the column I wrote last week outlining how we can be a better newspaper.
We need to do better
January 02, 2014

I hope I wasn’t too flip last week when I announced that the Regional News was going to $1.50 on newsstands.
I used a cute photo of a child crying on Santa’s lap as an introduction.
Ho. Ho. Ho. Ha. Ha. Ha.
But the first response I received in my email was something less than enthusiastic.
That reader — or maybe former reader — said we weren’t worth it.
Not enough news.
He could get the same information elsewhere.
In essence, he was saying too much for not enough.
When I first read it I felt defensive. I wanted to protect the paper and the people who work here. I think we do have a good paper. Last year we were rated the best paper of our size in the state by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. I don’t think anyone matches us for local news. And we won the community betterment from the local chamber of commerce.
But, as is the case with most emotional first impressions, being defensive would have been the wrong reaction.

Not only would I have been flip, I would have been smug too.
And even adding a puppy dog to our baby with Santa picture wouldn’t have been enough to convince at least one reader that we’re worth another quarter.
We have to earn his and your trust in 2014. We have to work for your extra 25 cents every week.
As I said in my announcements, the increase to $1.50, and an increase earlier this year in our subscription rates, is a case of simple economics. Raising the price is one of the things we need to do to keep our books balanced. We hope the extra quarter is something you can afford because your accumulated quarters mean a lot to us.
But our needs alone don’t warrant anything. Value is want you want.
It occurred to me while writing this that starting a price increase the first week of the new year isn’t the wisest thing to do. It is the time of year when we have the least advertising, so the fewest number of pages. We’re also short on news as government bodies and individuals aren’t doing newsworthy things during holiday periods. I promise, we’ll make up for it as the year goes on.
I’d like to think we’re worth another 25 cents. I’ll be waiting at a newsstand this week to see if others feel the same way.
But I probably won’t see my email critic there. He said he’s purchased the last Regional News he’ll ever buy.
So, as a new year starts, I’m asking him and every other reader to tell us what you need from your local paper.
One thing I think we need to do is be more aware of changes in our landscape — what new businesses do we have, what is being built or torn down? We need to tell you about what you see when you drive around town and wonder about. That’s as much news as what happens at city council and, frankly, the Geneva Shore Report does a better job of keeping up on the subject than we do. I hope that insult spurs us all on to do a better job.
I need to do more coverage of Lake Geneva schools. Those who work at the schools do the best job they can at providing us information, but there’s more to be done. The Lake Geneva school district was one of the beats I took on when I became editor, but I haven’t done a very good job of it. My cohorts, especially managing editor Rob Ireland and reporter Chris Schultz have taken more duties off of my plate, and I’m no longer interim sports editor. I’m out of excuses and our readers deserve better coverage.
Within the last few years we’ve added our Community Scrapbook page featuring names and faces of local people. It’s proved to be popular. I think we touched a cord there and it shows by the responses I get to it. We should remember that and expand upon it.
I need to make our community and commentary pages more inviting. I know it has a group of followers, but I also know it’s a section that’s largely neglected on our web hits. Last year we brought in more local columnists and I plan to add more. But I also want to expand our scope of commentary to include state, national and world issues. There’s a wealth of blogs and opinions out there. Our main mission is local, but we can also help provide thoughts on broader issues covering both sides of a given topic.
We need to find new ways to get information out, more story forms and more telling photos. There are many ways to tell a story — Q&As, graphics, first-person and catching up on ongoing news stories and people who were once in the news but have moved on.
We can do a better job of filling out stories by using more sources and avenues of information.
We can also use the web better to provide complimentary information. We can provide information about topics that we don’t have room for in the paper. At the same time we ought to be able to interest people in the paper by what we put online.
Newspapers are going to survive by leveraging different platforms and we and every other paper needs to do a better job at it.
We’ve talked for a long time about having better photos to compliment stories. We’ll do it in 2014.
And, internally, we need to be better organized, anticipate stories, keep track of events. I’m going to buy a few calendars. And on my own calendar, I’ll jot down: “Save the baby pictures for your wallet. The readers want substance.”
Forget flip and banish smug.
We can’t rest on our laurels. We need to roll up our sleeves again in 2014 and earn or re-earn your loyalty.
They say it’s best to put resolutions in writing. So here they are. I’ll review them periodically. In the meantime, I hope you trust us with an extra quarter. We’ll do our best to make it worth your while.
Please send me your ideas. I can be reached at 262-248-4444 or at jhalverson@lakegenevanews.net. I also love visitors. Our office is where it’s always been at 315 Broad St. in Lake Geneva. Coffee is usually brewing.
I can’t promise we can or should do everything everyone tells us to do. But we can’t do our own thing and ignore what people want either. We’d like to think we’re worth as much as a convenience store candy bar, but we have to prove it.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.


Happy New Year to all you who help make us
December 26, 2013

Who would have thunk it?
It’s been almost five years since I took over as general manager of the Regional News.
I had recently moved to Lake Geneva following a divorce and the closing of The Week, where I had worked for almost 20 years.
I was working part time at the Lake Geneva Library when someone showed me an item in the local paper that indicated the RN may be looking for a new general manager.
I shuffled my feet for a few days before calling my future boss Ken Dowdell, the general manager for United Communications Corp., our parent company.
I was pleased he answered the phone directly. No secretary screening his calls. He greeted me with no frills, no pretense.
A few weeks later Ken and Ron Montemurro, UCC’s financial guru, and myself were sitting in a restaurant in Kenosha.
“Why do you want this job?” I was asked.
“I’m not sure I do,” were the words that came out of my mouth.
A few weeks later I was standing in the backroom of the Regional News for the first time being introduced as the paper’s next general manager.
Three years after that Lisa Seiser, the longtime editor of the Regional News, who had been the identity of the paper, gave her notice that she was leaving for a different job in a different part of the country.
I advertised nationally for a replacement but never found anyone with what I thought was the right stuff or the right fit for Lake Geneva. Since my background and true passion was always on the news-end of the business, I took over as editor on a temporary basis.
It was reminiscent of the time before my tenure at The Week, when I’d been offered a job there on a six month basis. I’d been a columnist and associate editor at the Janesville Gazette, which owned the Week, and loved that job. I had been unsure whether I wanted to leave that job too — but went for it with the understanding it was only a “six month” assignment. I stayed 19 years.
I guess that seems to prove that my best career moves were the ones I questioned.
And so it was that I eventually decided to edit the Regional News on a full-time basis, or as full time as my general manager duties would allow.
It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and here’s why:
I’m working with the best people I’ve ever worked with. Our newbies have fit in well with a staff already steeped with a work ethic and a pride in their product.
I love the city. Ever since I can remember I’d wanted to live in a pristine tourist community by a great lake.
I love the opportunity to write. It remains my true passion. And writing about a city you love, being at its core, swiveling between caring and concern, makes me know how important it is for a community to have a local chronicle. I am really proud to be part of an institution that works at being a living history.

I love the people I meet on an almost daily basis. I love the contrarians and curmudgeons nearly as much as I like those who like us. I enjoy the arguments that belie the facts that we’re all human beings, passionate in different ways, with different beliefs, who can still interact. This city is full of varying voices and while the clash of those voices can be jarring at times, it’s also enlightening. It’s made those who are at the seat of power make sure they’re doing the right things.
As for those people in power — the city council and business leaders — I’ve grown to appreciate them. While they have different agendas than the contrarians, like the contrarians, they want to do what’s best for a city they love.
Those differences between human beings are great fodder for our paper and are ultimately great medicine for a great city.
It never fails either, that whenever I’m feeling a bit puffed up about myself, circumstances always put me back in my place.
And so it is, as 2013 comes to a close, that I count my professional blessings.
Thanks, Ken and Ron for ignoring my counterintuitive interview answers and hiring me anyway.
Thanks for the willingness of the staff to accept me and for their undying commitment to the Regional News.
Thanks to the readers who have accepted our occasional missteps and appreciated the changes we’ve made.
Thanks to the advertisers who pay our bills.
Happy New Year to all of you.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.


Red kettles teach lesson in human nature
December 19, 2013

The Salvation Army’s red kettles may be a familiar part of the landscape in December, but the view from behind the red kettle was eye opening.
For an hour on Friday, Dec. 6 and two hours on Saturday, Dec. 7, I rang a bell soliciting donations for The Salvation Army. In those three hours, I thought a lot about volunteering, charities and human nature.

Our Christmas photo op: A holiday hat trick
December 19, 2013

“Chris, take off your hat!”
For the last few years we’ve shot a team photo that we use on our company Christmas cards.
Over those last few years, some things have changed. But one thing is as certain as sunrise — Chris Schultz will wear a hat.

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