November Newsletter from the Newsroom

Hello, and welcome to the seventh edition of “Newsletter from the Newsroom.”

Happy November! I hope all are well and use the weekend for some post-election recuperation. Here’s what editors have been proud of this fall.

—Bridget Higdon, Vermont managing editor

This month I would like to highlight the longtime sports editor of the Tri-County News, Craig Hoffman.

On Sunday evening, Nov. 6 in Wisconsin Dells, Craig was honored by the Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association for his more than 20 years of contributions to area athletic directors. As the go-to guy for sports in our area, Craig does indeed do much for area athletic directors in terms of supplying scores, information and other assistance.

But that doesn’t begin to point out the huge impact Craig has had at the Tri-County News over the years—and it is an interesting story how he came to join this team.

Prior to 2001, the newspaper was operating out of multiple offices including a small one in New Holstein. The company’s previous sports editor had just worked his last day, moving on to the sports department of a daily newspaper in the southern part of the state. That left a big hole in the editorial staff and I was worried how quickly we could get it filled.

Just a few days later, this big fella walks into my office and says, “I’m wondering if you need any help with covering sports?” I couldn’t believe it—we hadn’t even had time to place an ad yet!

More than 20 years later, Craig is still going strong. He has a great relationship with all the coaches in the area, largely because of his tireless efforts to be at as many events as possible. His wife deserves a medal as Craig is gone covering events a lot of weeknights and weekends as well. Anytime we have local athletes at State events Craig is there as well, even though that often means a one-way drive of two or three hours. Craig also does a great job striving to treat all sports equally.

Not to be lost in all that is the fact that Craig is a fun guy to be around and is always lightening the mood in the office. He’s doing a job that he loves to do, and we love having him here! Congratulations on your recognition from the Athletic Directors, Craig—you deserve it!

—Mark Sherry, editor

Here in Las Vegas it has been a busy fall, as we continue to try to return to normal following the large spring wildfire and the summer water crisis. However, we have been able to start exploring new topics and have put out a lot of great content for readers.

We have started a series looking into short-term rentals in the area. The wildfire exposed a lack of housing options available, and local officials found that there were an excess of Airbnb listings that were not following city and state laws. I have linked the first two stories in that series:

Local Airbnb’s operate without business licenses, don’t pay Lodger’s Tax

County vows to enforce Lodger’s Tax requirements for Airbnb’s

There was also a significant update in a massive crime story in the area. In 2019, a local homeless man that had been “adopted” by the community was brutally murdered without explanation. This past month, the man who committed the crime was sentenced to life in prison, and it was one of the biggest stories of the year for us. Here’s the story that talks about the sentence and the investigation

Thanks to the hard work of our staff, we have continued to see our digital readership increase this year, and with more big stories coming up we look forward to seeing that trend continue. It’s been a good year at the Optic and we expect that to continue through the fall and into next year.

—Phil Scherer, editor

New Community Editor/Reporter Allison Brown hit the ground running when she joined the CITYSunTimes/Queen Creek Sun Times Oct. 10 and ended up writing this story that ended up being our cover story for the November issue of the CITYSunTimes that went to press just last week. It was posted in October online.

We continue to have some great CST stories from our freelancer, Tiffany Brown, like this one that really gained traction on our social media, as many are using this golf cart service to now travel around town and enjoy all the holiday events and decorating going on.

I did a crossover story that also gained a lot of traction with the movie premiere here of a new film, done entirely in the our Scottsdale area.

Then over in Queen Creek our Arizona State Cronkite school intern Keetra Bippus wrote about a local resident and breast cancer survivor developing hope for others.

Then I wrote about the local nonprofit that operates a new entertainment venue that is helping to put kids with autism to work
our local airport continues to expand and compete with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with more expansion I highlighted here that got a lot of shares and traction on our social media:
that didn’t get as much shares and traction as my story about a local teen doing well currently competing on “The Voice” on NBC.

Another noteable story was done from another Arizona State Cronkite school intern Harrison Campbell about a local cowboy tragically killed in an accident in September and this story too gained a lot of traction with readers.

—Kelly Mixer, editor

Here are a few stories that the Ripon Commonwealth Press was proud of for the months of September and October:

“A great opportunity to increase visibility”: Little White Schoolhouse will move to Ripon’s west side: Ripon is one of two cities that claim they are the “Birthplace of the Republican Party. The schoolhouse, which is the site where Whigs, Free Soilers and Democrats gathered in 1854 to create a new political party to combat the expansion of slavery into American territories, is obviously something that the community and beyond cares about and the story Joe Schulz put together about it moving for the first time in 50 years and sixth time overall was extremely well read and sparked conversations on several social media platforms.

The Commonwealth also ran two excellent human interest stories the past couple months. The first, “50 years at the controls: Feder celebrates a half century of service with the Ripon Area Fire District” ran in conjunction with our special Guardians section, which honors firefighters and first responders. The second, “A dream to walk across the stage:” Family of Ella Weiske is raising money to allow her to walk in time for graduation tells the story of a Ripon High School senior who was diagnosed at a young age with spastic quadriplegia, the most severe form of cerebral palsy that affects all form limbs. When the story went live Oct. 26, her fundraising page had a little more than $4,000 and now it is up to more than $11,000 of the $45,000 goal.

—Jonathan Bailey, editor

At a Hudson School Board meeting, Star-Observer reporter Hannah Coyle heard a report about pending budget deficits and the possibility of closing schools as enrollment dipped at the same time that population in the city was increasing. Rather than simply reporting the sparse comments made at the meeting, Coyle sat down with the superintendent and asked him to explain the financial situation and the district’s options for dealing with it. The result was a story that received high marks from readers for explaining the dire situation. Here’s what readers had to say:

“Ms. Coyle, This is an outstanding local news article. It was very well written, organized, and easy to read. It flowed like the St. Croix river. Well done!”

And this:

“I completely agree with Greg. The alternative choices are well defined. This is an important decision and this article provides valuable information to the citizens of Hudson. Articles like this are just one of the many benefits of local journalism in providing a valuable communication link between our local units of government and us residents. The school district and the citizens owe Hannah a big thank you. We need more communication like this in Hudson. So glad you are on the job for us Hannah. You are making this a better community.”

The story is an excellent example of telling a complex story without getting deep in the weeds of mind-numbing budget numbers. Coyle selectively used numbers to provide readers with an understanding of the situation and then laid out the options from doing nothing to closing numerous schools.


Jimmy Chalmers was the equipment manager for the Red Wing football team for more than 30 years. He attended every practice and every game. When he decided to retire this year, Red Wing Sports Editor Martin Schlegel met with Chalmers to discuss why he did it so long. He wrote a heart-warming story about a mentally challenged man who loved this football team and the team loving him back.


Cannon Falls Beacon reporter Alec Hamilton attended a fundraiser for a family that had sought refuge in Cannon Falls from the war in Ukraine. Although there were some challenges with language, Hamilton got the story, telling of the family’s flight from Ukraine and the open arms that the Cannon Falls community greeted the family with.

—Jim Johnson, editor

3 things to shine a spotlight on in Vermont:

1) In early September, the St. Albans Messenger brought back a special section that hadn’t been done in several years: Hometown Heroes. We asked readers to nominate community “heroes,” and while we didn’t get as many submissions as we would have liked, those we did receive were deserving and made excellent profiles. They were published in a special print section and on their own web page. I’m hopeful this special section will grow year-after-year!

I’d also like to give a shout out to our ad reps whose ad sales added to the full package this issue provided readers, and to Derek Bratek and Justin Loewen, whose designs helped make this print edition look beautiful.

2) Our sports editor Ruthie Laroche writes a wonderful column called “Outdoors with Ruthie” that’s really been excellent this fall. Her photos of Vermont’s peak foliage along with the detailed descriptions of the hikes she’s taken in the area are beloved by readers. Published every Friday, the column is a nice compliment to typical high school sports coverage. Way to go Ruthie!

3) This fall, we also welcomed John Custodio to the team. John is a recent college grad who relocated for the position. He’s already bringing more enthusiasm and curiosity to the newsroom, and I’m looking forward to what more he’ll do!

—Bridget Higdon, editor

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you in December.